Welcome to my favorite story yet, from a young widowed husband in the UK.
His wife, who just recently died of cancer in her 40s, had this on her wish list for her funeral:
“A live performance of ELO’s Mr Blue Sky in the church … absolutely everyone must be invited to the house afterwards.”
Now if you don’t know that catchy song by Electric Light Orchestra, go listen now, I insist. Even if you know it, give it a listen now anyway. Listen and imagine a church full of people singing their hearts out in honor of their cherished friend, gone too soon. If you can do it without losing it, you’re way stronger than I.
There’s a number of wonderful things about this story, such as their school-age children reading “The Owl and the Pussycat” in front of 400 people and staying composed. But it’s the song request that is so amazing.
The song is about sunshine after rain, the jubilant happiness and glee we all feel when the sun comes back out. It’s one of the simplest joys of all of life… blue skies and sun. And the song is jumping out of its skin with enthusiasm and joy over it.
And THAT, my friends, is how we could be saying goodbye to people. And when they give us their permission, what’s not to love?
(Not that ELO is everyone’s cup of tea, or that music is everyone’s medium; that was just this woman and her family’s mode of expression.)
But at her request—and maybe only because it was her request—the sentiment of the funeral was not on the unfairness, sorrow, tragedy and grief of it all, but on the JOY of LIFE! It’s the opposite of what we normally do and think is appropriate at a funeral.
Do we think that she made this request because she was happy and joyful that she was going to die?! Hello, of course not. But maybe it was because she accepted that it was her time, no matter how much that totally stunk, and that life is still beautiful and to be celebrated.
We are not promised to make it to old age or to die peacefully. The gamut of leaving this world ranges from serene to horrific, but it always has and it always will. Those of us fortunate enough not to have to contemplate our own imminent death can live in all kinds of fantasies about how we’d handle it, but do you really know?
But from my perspective, a young, dying person who insists that people stand up and sing jubilantly about life has it right. Dying is not a tragedy. It is the only predictable thing that’s going to happen to us, plain and simple.
I’m sure when all those good people were singing that song they were awash in tears (as I was— just thinking about it and I don’t even know her)… and that is the magnificence of it.
We can be sad and grateful at the same time. Heartbroken and heartwarmed. Bereft and enriched.
There’s a line toward the end of the song, “I’ll remember you, I’ll remember you this way.”
And the widowed husband ends his article with this line “I’d expected this to be the worst day of my life. …In truth, it was a perversely beautiful day, filled with admiration, salutation and discovery.”