Funeral Song

I went to a funeral yesterday that was perfect—as funerals go. It was more uplifting, soul-affirming celebration of life and less anguished, snot-bubble cryfest of finality. By complete happenstance, I was one of the first people to walk in the doors of the funeral home. “Let The Sunshine In” was playing over tinny speakers. The irony was not lost on me given that it was a dreary late-November day. I needed to hear that song. Upbeat, yet ambient showtunes played relentlessly in the background until the services started—a zen choice for Chris Holbrook who passed away unexpectedly mere days before. He was a beloved member of KC’s vibrant theater community. Check that—he was a beloved member of KC.

As the services were getting ready to wrap up, a literal choir of Chris’ friends sang “Come Sail Away” by Styx. Yes, that “Come Sail Away.” You’re humming it right now. It’s an infectious earworm that lodges in your head. I will associate that song with Chris forever more—oh, and it’s fitting given that it was one of his fave sing-along tunes (along with 1,564,212,998,633 other ones, mind you).

Funerals are weird. One minute you’re passing someone you don’t even know a tissue. Another minute you’re clapping along to a classic 80’s-yacht rock song and chiming in on the chorus with gusto you didn’t know you had. I didn’t want the song to end. I doubt anyone did. Mercifully, the chorus goes on through about 192 refrains. When it ended, it felt like the room was having a group hug in the midst of having an existential crisis. Like I said, funerals are weird. Even the pastor got choked up. Clearly, the services brought the house down. (My words. Not his.)

In a quirky bit of showmanship, the undertaker told the room that in all his years of doing this, he’d never seen such a display of love and joy. (I’m paraphrasing a bit as I can’t remember his exact phrasing. I was still singing Styx in my head.)

On my drive home, I thought a lot about all the friends I saw at the visitation. Some good friends, some peripheral. All grieving. And I also had rampant showtunes endlessly going through my head. “Memories” from Cats was in the lead—because, of course, it was. The music Chris’ friends chose yesterday wasn’t accidental. It was vibrant and alive—and the complete antithesis of any funeral dirge.

People, if I should unexpectedly pass away, let it be known that—besides being cremated—I want 80’s dance music blaring through professional speakers at my visitation. Mostly Madonna, but you can sprinkle in some Exposé and other various remixed one-hit-wonders when warranted. Heck, throw in some Spice Girls if you’re so inclined—but that’s the only 90’s music I want. Period.

Furthermore, the tune I want played before everyone pays their final respects? It’s the song I heard when I turned on my car radio right after Chris’ funeral. “Roam” by The B-52s.

“I hear a wind …
Whistling air …
Whispering …
… in my ear.”

The world misses you, Chris.

PS. Your sendoff was spectacular.