My father had Beethoven's 6th Symphony, "Pastorale
" played at his funeral. He never thought that he would die
, despite overwhelming odds - everyone dies
, and in our family people with heart disease
tend to die faster - and that was the only thing he would ever say on the subject, was the piece
that would be played. Who knew that at only 43 years old we would have to play it?
He said he chose that symphony because he believed in life. He believed in living life to its absolute fullest, and embraced the wonder and beauty of it all. The music of the Pastorale symphony, he noted, was flowing and soothing and energetic and sad and happy all at the same time. (Remember the scene in Fantasia?)
The thing that made the biggest impression on me was how fast everything happened. He was buried in less than one week after his death. Considering how everything actually goes when someone in your family unexpectedly dies, it was very fast. Too fast.
I didn't cry, but I almost did. Many times. The first time was at the cleaners. I had taken my dress in to be cleaned and the lady behind the counter told me that she could not get it out before noon the next day. Having to explain to a complete stranger why you need that dress clean by 9:00 the next day is uncomfortable because neither of you have had to deal with this before. She was speechless and I was seventeen. Finally, she told me that it would be done by 5 pm and don't worry about the bill.
The memorial service - not the funeral per se - was absolutely beautiful. It did not look thrown together at all. My 10th grade choir director gave the eulogy and we packed the funeral home chapel with over two hundred friends, business acquaintances, and others whose lives my father had touched. The soothing sounds of Beethoven played before, during and after the service. There was somewhat of a receiving line where everyone felt obligated to give their condolences. It was difficult to maintain composure but I did it, which is more than I could say for even my high school principal.
The odd situation about this was that my father was to be buried in Llano Cemetary in Amarillo, Texas. However, we lived in Denton, Texas and wanted to have a nice service there for all those we knew and a small service in Amarillo, thus the two services.
Small should have equalled respectful, but it was not. When we got to Amarillo, the first thing that my seven-year-old cousin said to me was "You're mean." My grandmother said that was a terrible thing to say and asked why he even said such a thing. He responded, "She's mean because she didn't cry when Uncle Ronnie died." Ah, family gossip. No one knew what to say. The funeral wasn't much better. My aunt's preacher - who we didn't know - officiated. They played Beethoven's 6th yet again, but this time it was stopped in the second movement because my aunt played a song on the piano that she had written for him. She is a wonderful pianist and it was a beautiful tribute. The preacher rattled off a generic funeral sermon, but since my father was not the most religious man in the world, and decidedly not Baptist, he sprinkled it with words such as "if" he chose to follow Our Lord and Savior and "hope" that he is resting in eternal peace. And then at the end of the sermon, he made the insult of insults - gave an altar call that anyone who would like to dedicate their lives to Jesus come forward and he would speak with them afterward. He might as well have passed around a collection plate. I couldn't even look at my mother. I did not go to the burial.
The biggest question in my mind throughout the whole ordeal was "When is everything going to be normal again?" Eventually it did get normal, but it was a new kind of normal, one that was a little more empty than before. But people only do what they know, and you make it through.