A Celebration of Life

I didn’t know Randolph. Not really.

He and his wife sat across the table from my wife and me at a banquet five or ten years ago, and he entertained us with talk about his train. That’s what my wife tells me, anyhow. I honestly don’t remember.

Randolph died last week, and his funeral was on Saturday. I say “funeral” because that’s the traditional word for it, but the family chose to call it a celebration of life. I like that.

I suppose most funerals include eulogies, even if the deceased was highly unpopular. But Randolph appears to have been quite an outstanding man. One who was highly regarded. And he would have been the first one to credit God with helping him be the kind of man so many people admired and looked up to.

Not every part of a “celebration of life” is overtly  joyous, of course, but the pictures projected on the screen for the first portion of the service, the eulogy, the extremely upbeat choir anthem “Jerusalem,” and the congregational singing of the joyous hymn “Victory in Jesus” all worked together to make Randolph’s service a positive event.

That’s not unusual for a Christian funeral.  We believe the deceased is already in Heaven enjoying fellowship with his Lord and Savior. The body–in Randolph’s case, he had already been buried–is simply an empty shell. Although even the most devout of Christians will miss their friend and loved one, there’s nothing to grieve about. Not for his sake, anyhow.

Like you, I have no idea how much time I have left. At seventy, I know I’m closer to my earthly death than I was at sixty-nine. I hope and pray that God will continue to bless my earthly existence with meaning and significance. And that when I go, my service will be a time of celebration.

I’ve already made a video of me doing one of my original songs, “What Will You Leave Behind?” I want that to be played at my Celebration of Life. But that’s not a fun song. Maybe have them show a Youtube video of Chi Coltrane singing “Go Like Elijah.” (Watch it here.)

[NOTE: What timing! I wrote most of this Sunday afternoon. Sunday night I experienced severe chest and abdominal pains that sent me to the ER. My heart was fine. The doctor there thought it was reflux. I went to my PCP on Monday. He was more inclined to think it might be an intestinal bug. After I got home, his office called to say he wanted me to have an ultrasound–maybe gall bladder problems. As of the time I’m writing this, I’m scheduled for that this afternoon. I don’t know whether I’ll have results back soon enough to give you an update before posting this. But no matter what the problem proves to be, it’s been a very timely reminder that my body will continue to deteriorate. And I’m thankful for God’s comforting company every step of the way.]

What about you? What’s your view of funerals? Have you experienced the difference between a Christian Celebration of Life service and one that’s not? How about leaving a comment.

NOTE: Various people have complained about not being able to find or leave comments. Go all the way to the bottom of this post, beneath my “Best regards, Roger.” On the very bottom line of that last section just above the previous post you’ll see “Leave a Comment” if yours will be the first or “X Comments,” where  X denotes the number of existing comments.

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I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

More on “Snow Is Beautiful, But…”

While in junior college, I was living in Cumberland, Maryland. A very snowy place. I didn’t have my driver’s license yet–that’s a story for another time–and frequently mooched rides with friends and girls I wished were girlfriends.

I’ll never forget the night–I don’t recall the time, but the fact this event took place at night is important–when I was riding back from somewhere to my parents’ house. Keith’s car was slipping all over the street, but it wasn’t until I said something about it that he admitted he liked to make his car slide on snow and ice. I grant you he had his car as perfectly under control as anyone could under those circumstances, but I never rode with him again in bad weather.

I don’t know if he’s still alive or not.

No, that’s not the snow story I told you on Sunday that I would talk about today. But it should help to give you a better understanding of just how cautious I feel when the roads are snowy and/or icy. Fortunately, Kathleen agrees totally.

Here’s the the way the story has worked out.

Kathleen’s father had been in bad health for a number of years. Although he was a likable fellow when she and I married twelve years ago, he had become a grumpier and grumpier old man, plagued by pain and easily irritated.

We knew that J. A.’s  (he only has initials and goes by “JA” as if his name was “Jay”) health was declining and my mother-in-law, Anna, felt the end was getting close. Although as a former nurse she had a good understanding of health issues, she didn’t have a God’s-eye-view of JA’s actual condition, though. When he suffered a stroke in November, his problems proved more complex than the stroke itself.

Although he was soon moved from the hospital to a rehab facility, he didn’t make any effort to cooperate with the therapists. He seemed to have given up. With the encouragement of the doctors, who agreed with Anna that JA would die soon, she moved him to a hospice location.

Although he survived Christmas, he continued to decline.

Kathleen had already planned a trip to visit her mom near the end of January, and her plane tickets were unchangeable.  We were in a real quandary. We had always intended to drive to Memphis when the time came, but a major snow storm was expected this past Friday.

JA passed away away early last Thursday morning. We’d thought maybe we could still drive if we got away from the east coast that day, but we learned that Memphis was already getting bad weather. We wouldn’t be able to drive until this past Monday at the earliest.

But Kathleen was still scheduled to fly out today. Rather than make me face the possibility of driving the whole way back by myself, we thought the best solution was for her to go ahead and fly, extend her stay, and pay the $200 fee to reschedule her return flight. Fortunately, a very understanding Delta agent didn’t charge her for the change.

No, this snow wasn’t convenient. Although it necessitated quite a change in our plans, we believe things have worked out for the best. But it sure had us making and remaking tentative plans until JA’s actual death permitted us to make the final decision.

I promise to let the subject of snow thaw out and evaporate now.

Do you have a story of a time when snow or some other weather problem has changed your plans drastically? How about leaving a comment?

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I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

Avoiding the High Cost of Dying

When my parents died–my father in 1993 and my mother a year later–I learned that they had done what seemed like a really good thing. Not only had they pre-selected their lots and their caskets, they’d also paid for everything, leaving none of those business details for me to deal with at a time of sorrow. It was a great convenience, and I’m glad they did it.

In fact, I thought it sounded like a great idea for me to do, too.

But everything I read said it wasn’t a good idea–that it would ultimately mean spending more than needed. What were my wife and I to do? We didn’t want the initial survivor–or our kids, once we were both gone–to be strapped with funeral expenses or to face the the pressure of going whole-hog on the casket. It would be all too easy to say, “He (or She) deserves the best. Else what will people say?”

People are definitely going to be talking about our funerals, but not that way. They may even be jealous that we’ve decided to go the cheapest way possible. By being cremated. Sure. Why not?

A nice casket will be visible during visitation and funeral and then stuck out of sight underground. Would I do that to one of my good guitars? I think NOT!

How much nicer to be reduced to ashes and NOT be kept in an urn, but scattered somewhere appropriate. We’ll give our kids the choice between throwing the ashes into the air at our church’s cemetery or overboard on a Caribbean cruise. Of course, unless we become wealthy between now and then–not likely–they’ll be on their own for the cruise.

As Christians, we believe the dead will be raised to life again eventually. It certainly won’t be any more challenging for the God who created the Universe to find and reassemble all those ashes than it will be to restore us–or anyone else, for that matter–to life.

What do you think–of cremation or anything else I’ve mentioned today? Please leave a comment.

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I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” is only one of my two blogs. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on  “As I Come Singing.” Check it out HERE if you’re interested.  Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

If you enjoy my writing, you’ll find a number of things to read on my website. Also music to listen to and music-related videos to watch.

My newest novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Go HERE for links to those places.
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Best regards,
Roger

Planning a Funeral…Mine (Part Two)

FuneralSong

[The dog ate today’s blog post. Or at least it fell somewhere into that mysterious bit bucket. Although I wrote it immediately after writing Sunday’s post, I must’ve failed to save the draft, and I didn’t discover that until this morning when I added the above image in preparation for posting. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to rewrite the post before leaving for the Wednesday nursing home ministry, and I didn’t think you would appreciate my slopping something together just so I could get it out at its usual time. Thank you for your understanding.]

This past Sunday, I shared with you that my wife and I plan to be cremated, and that’s about as far as I got in talking about my funeral. So here’s the rest of the story.

For years I’ve wanted a recording of Chi Coltrane’s “Go Like Elijah” to be played at my memorial service. It’s an energetic song. Very positive. One that is likely to get people’s feet tapping. That’s what I’d like.

Why be mournful? I’ll be in a better place. (Well, yes, I do want people to miss me, but why do it mournfully? And, yes, I’d rather that Jesus’s second coming took place soon and made this planning irrelevant.)

I also want a recording of the song pictured at the top of the page to be played. (Click here for a downloadable copy of the lead sheet.) It’s one of my original songs, and I recently updated a few of the words and changed the tune a little at a place where I could no longer reach the notes. Then I spent days making a digital recording of it.

As a frustrated perfectionist–it’s not within my power to do as good a job as I want–calling that recording finished is hard. But I’m reasonably satisfied. You may listen to it by clicking here.

As you’ll undoubtedly gather, I hope the people who hear this song at my memorial service will associate the good things the song talks about with me and not the bad ones!

Yes, we’ll have other music, too. Congregational singing, though. Not the choir. They deserve to have the day off.

“It Is Well with My Soul” is probably my favorite hymn, so I suppose they ought to sing that. And maybe “Amazing Grace.” And let’s not leave out “Victory in Jesus.”

And, yes, I want the pastor to present a brief evangelistic message for those present who might not yet be Christians.

Hmm. Sounds like a grand time. Too bad I won’t be there to enjoy it. Especially when it’s time to pig out afterwards…

Do you have your funeral planned? Do you have favorite songs you want sung? Anything unusual done (e.g., dancing on the coffin)? Please share a comment.

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I’ll be back again this Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on “As I Come Singing”–check it out here. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list here.

Best regards,
Roger

Planning a Funeral…Mine

cruiseship

Some folks were probably horrified at reading the title of today’s blog post, but I didn’t intend for them to be. Whether we want to admit it or not, all of us are going to die sometime, and it makes a lot of sense to get the decision-making out of the way ahead of time. Especially as it relates to money.

My parents did that, and it made things so much easier. They had not only selected their coffins, they’d also prepaid almost all of their funeral expenses.

My wife and I are taking that one step further. Why make our heirs spend hundreds of dollars of their inheritance on coffins that will be visible only for a couple of viewings and maybe a little while before the funeral ceremony. We are FAR too practical for that kind of wasteful spending.

Not only that, however. Why purchase a grave plot or even a small stone marker? As Christians, we believe that–like the repentant thief who was crucified beside Jesus–we will be with Him in Heaven immediately upon dying.

(Don’t tell our friend Eric about our plans, however. He believes we’ll remain completely dead until the time of Jesus’ second coming, and we can’t convince him otherwise.)

In case you haven’t seen it coming, that means Kathleen and I both want to be cremated. Yep, ashes to ashes.

And forget putting those ashes in a fancy jar that somebody had to dust periodically. We want our ashes thrown to the wind. And why not? I learned to play guitar during the Bob Dylan era…”Blowing in the Wind.”

Thrown to the wind…somewhere. The location has yet to be determined.

One of Kathleen’s girls suggested celebrating our deaths by taking a family cruise and throwing the ashes into the ocean to be consumed as fish food. Fine with us, as long as they don’t expect to inherit enough to pay for them, their spouses, and their kids to take that cruise.

They might also have trouble convincing their employers that a cruise for that purpose is a legitimate use of paid time off for a funeral. Go figure. Employers are funny people.

I suppose our kids could just store the ashes in a mason jar until vacation time. Properly labeled to avoid mistaking them for a cooking ingredient, of course.

This has been fun, readers, but it’s not really what I’d intended to write this blog post about. Looks like I’ll have to write a Part Two to cover that. Come back on Wednesday.

But–just in case this post has upset you–Kathleen and I don’t have any plans for dying. We’ll be more than happy to let that happen whenever God desires. And we can rest more comfortably in the meanwhile, confident that our eternal futures are as well provided for as our return to the earth.

Please share your reaction in a comment. And don’t think I’m criticizing anyone who feels differently from us.

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I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on “As I Come Singing”check it out here. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list here.

Best regards,
Roger

 

 

What? Me Formal? Bite Your Tongue!

wedding     award     Roger-Kristi-dancing

When I married my first wife, I wore a suit, not a tuxedo. But at least it was a suit I’d bought just for the occasion. Who looks at the groom in a wedding, anyhow?

My first tux was for the wedding of a friend. Oh, did I hate having to wear it. But I felt honored to be in the wedding, so I suffered through it.

I didn’t wear a tux again for another thirty or thirty-five years. At my only daughter’s wedding. I grant you those pictures don’t look bad–the open coat in the picture above makes me look fat at a time when I wasn’t–but I would’ve preferred a suit. Preferably the one I bought to wear to job interviews ten or twelve years ago and haven’t worn again since.

I used to have to wear a tie to work. When that ceased being a requirement, I was thrilled. And even more thrilled when they instituted casual Friday.

Things haven’t changed since I’ve advanced in age. I had to buy a white shirt to wear in the Christmas musical at church a few years ago. A Christmassy tie, too.  Now that I play bass guitar in the musical, I can get away with a white turtleneck.

And when my second (and final) wife and I got married in 2003, we wore jeans and open denim shirts over t-shirts. At our church’s Wednesday night Bible study, when other people didn’t dress up, either.

I compromise slightly at the banquet of the writers conference I attend yearly. I wear a washable L.L.Bean sport coat and a snazzy shirt–and a pair of Dockers-style pants. No tie, though.

My wife and I still agree on most things, and she’s not much dressier than I am. In fact, we decided to be buried in jeans and a casual shirt. No unnecessary formality for that event. That was our original plan.

But why put our kids through the hassle of even picking out a coffin when we’d be satisfied with plain pine boxes? We now plan to be cremated and have our ashes thrown to the wind, although we haven’t made any final decisions about the exact point of release.

Although Kathleen wants the choir to sing an anthem at her funeral, I just want a recording of Chi Coltrane singing “Go Like Elijah.” That ought to liven things up a bit.

In the meantime, I’ll keep wearing jeans 99% of the time. At sixty-seven, I’ve earned the right to be as informal as I want to be.

Are you formal, informal, or in between? How about sharing that in a comment?

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I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

By the way, “On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I use “As I Come Singing”check it out here–to post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. Check here to see the list.

Best regards,
Roger