Often described as the universal language, music has been a way to bring people together since the dawning of time, in joy and through grief. Earlier this week, an article noted that some bereaved have opted to have more modern music play at funerals for their family and loved ones, in lieu of traditional hymns. Among the popular choices were “My Way” and “Supermarket Flowers,” both by Frank Sinatra.
While some may find the music choices unconventional, funeral directors around the world are working to accommodate the wishes of the deceased, as well as their friends and family. The study also showed that over 20 percent of people who planned funerals in the last year said they were given explicit instruction from their deceased loved one as to the type of music to play at their funeral. One out of 10 adults in the U.K. said they would like “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen to play at the funeral, while one in 15 said they’d choose “Highway to Hell” by AC/DC.
“It’s hard to say anything is a strange request, because we try to honor everyone’s wishes,” says Javier Hernandez, funeral director at Ted Dickey Funeral Home in Plano. “Nowadays, nothing is really out of the ordinary. I’ve had '70s-style services with '70s music, which made it a disco funeral.”
A survey conducted by the National Funeral Directors Association found that 62 percent of people planning a funeral service want to incorporate some form of personalization in the service. Music selection, perhaps, is the the one aspect that most people can agree upon.
Singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran’s version of “Supermarket Flowers” is also a popular selection in Texas, as well as MercyMe’s “I Can Only Imagine.” Both songs are melancholy in tone, the former about the death of Sheeran’s grandmother, written from the viewpoint of his mother, and the latter a contemporary Christian rock song with lyrics about reuniting with Jesus. Across generations, music selections tend to differ. While some families may choose more solemn and somber songs, others want their loved ones associated with more joyous and happy tunes.
"If it’s the right music, and if it’s music that fits that person, then it’s healing,” says Stephanie Hughes, co-owner of Hughes Family Tribute Center in Dallas. “For older people, we usually play more traditional music, but in the case of children dying young, we have played the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Spiderman theme songs. It’s all about healing. Basically, what we’re trying to do is help people smile on the worst day of their lives.”
As the demand for more personalized funeral arrangements grows, directors are working to keep ceremonies interesting and as pleasant as possible for everyone involved. For funeral directors and the bereaved alike, planning a funeral takes an emotional toll, which is why most directors are willing to accommodate almost any type of request, no matter how bizarre or unconventional.
“We actually prefer when families request something more personal,” says Sarah Carillo, funeral director at Good Life Funeral Home in Orlando, Florida. “We’ve had people request 'Dancing Queen' by ABBA, 'Free Bird' by Lynyrd Skynyrd and 'Stairway to Heaven' by Led Zeppelin. We don’t deny families’ requests, and we encourage them to make them no matter how strange they may seem.”