The first funeral I went to was my own father’s. And it was more of a celebration of life than a funeral, or at least I think it was.
I still squirm when I hear the word funeral. Images of all black, of weeping mothers, of saddened family and friends, of cemeteries, and of flowers crowd my mind. But when I think of my dad’s funeral, I hear music.
With the help of friends, choir directors, musicians and singers, we turned my dad’s nontraditional funeral into a concert, playing contemporary Christian songs along with a few of his favorites. Because my dad is music. That is his legacy. That was the only way we knew how to celebrate the musician he was and is.
I was told I was ‘being brave’ for getting up to speak at my dad’s funeral, and for singing. Bravery: A word I associate with war, soldiers, combat and heroes. I wasn’t being brave. I was honoring my father. I was doing so in the ways I knew I could: By talking about him and by singing for him.
Funeral and bravery. Celebration of life and honor. I’ve thought a lot about these words – what they mean and how they are perceived. The way I see it, we have two choices: We can wake up ready to live the life we are blessed with, or we can wake up grieving the little time we have left. And I think we should be celebrating the precious time we have here on this earth, and honoring the time others have had.
It wasn’t too long ago when I mustered up enough courage to break out of my shower-singing career and enter the musical paradise of my basement. My basement was my dad’s man cave filled with instruments, microphones and a sound system. Growing up, I constantly heard the strumming of guitar strings and the silent buzz of amplifiers coming from my basement. When I told my dad I wanted to sing with him, his eyes lit up and I swear he was the happiest person in the world.
Before my dad passed away, my brother brought his guitar to the hospital. He sat next to the bed and played, played anything at all. And my dad heard it. He turned his face and body to the strumming of guitar strings, unable to respond or even open his eyes due to sedation.
Music was the last thing my dad heard, and it’s the first thing I hear when I think of him. I hear the guitar, the vibrations of the strings echoing throughout my basement; I hear the rhythm, the one he could pick up so easily; and I hear his voice, the sound of him effortlessly matching pitch.
“Are you happy? Life is short, you know,” my dad would ask. And I’m reminded that nothing is infinite, that time is precious and that life is worth celebrating. So, in 2014, why not make it a habit to ask yourself if you’re happy? Because life is too short not to be happy, not to do the things that make you happy and not to surround yourself with people that make you happy.