no place like home for the holidays
December 12, 2018 7:47 PM   Subscribe

My grandma passed two days ago. I've been tasked to make a playlist for the funeral. My aunt (who was closest to her) said that she liked easy listening music, but it being my dad's (and probably one of my uncle's) preferred genre, I'm kind of concerned that it'll made him sad if he hears the songs on the radio from now on or something. Am I overthinking this?

Is this a valid concern? He doesn't go out of his way to listen to them but if it comes on on the radio he enjoys it and hums along. It's music he's liked for a few decades now (he's in his 60s). He doesn't really listen to other genres so far as I can tell. No one else in the family in that generation really listens to music otherwise.

I've been dealing with the death by going back to my place/life in the next city away and letting in memories when I feel I can deal with them. It works for me because she never came here, and there's nothing in my room or life here that particularly reminds me of her (we're SE Asian so gifts come in cash form that I use on groceries mainly). But in Dad's case, they lived in the same city, my folks pop in to Grandma's two or three times a week, they swap food and groceries and things all the time, so Dad's surrounded by objects and a lifestyle imbued with her memories. He's also the next of kin so will be dealing with all the paperwork and everything. So I don't have a grasp on what I would like in his situation. The music I usually listen to is what I do professionally, so my only context for that is that I wouldn't really want to have that music at her funeral because I don't want to get upset if I have to play it at work/publicly. I feel like I should feel the music would be more special for being played at her funeral or something, and maybe that might change in time, but, see coping strategy above.

If it makes a difference, we were slightly prepared for it but it was still unexpected; the estimated 1% chance things would go wrong in the surgery, did. It was kind of hell to bring the bag with the clean clothes that Grandma would've changed into after her op back home untouched. He's the one that took her to all the scans and everything, and probably would've been the one to take her back from the hospital.

This is the first death we've experienced in the immediate family as a family so I'm still feeling my way around how I should act and what to look out for and think about. Our relationship is such that I don't feel I can ask him directly (more that I'm still newly drawing my lines as an adult in the parent-child dynamic than anything else).

The other thing I could do I guess is pick music from my heritage/my family's culture, as that's not going to pop up on radio, but I don't have a feel for how different kinds of songs sit in the cultural context to know what to pick.

Grandma wasn't really a music person so it's not like she had any favourite songs or anything. We're a fairly pragmatic and not overly (outwardly) emotional family. Everyone's pretty much themselves- if fairly subdued - right now. We're kind of aiming for a not-too-sad/light/relaxed kind of vibe. So far on the list is the Carpenters, Barry Manilow, Elton John, Billie Joel, Anne Murray, Engelbert Humperdinck. So yeah, things that would likely come on in the car.
posted by womb of things to be and tomb of things that were to Grab Bag (10 answers total)
What is this a playlist for? Like is there going to be a service and these songs will be a focal point at particular points in the service? Is it just background music for the meet and greet? You're probably overthinking, but if you're worried, and it's for background music, can you get the elevator-music versions of the songs? Your relatives probably won't even notice what song is playing so it won't be a reminder later.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:15 PM on December 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

If Grandma wasn't really a music person and your dad and uncle are? Then yeah, I'd go with instrumental versions of songs or some classical.

Anecdata: I went to a funeral with a friend for moral support. I had never met the deceased and only knew a little about him. They played "Tears in Heaven" at the end of the service. Now I do not and never have liked Eric Clapton, but I started sobbing and I still cry whenever I hear that song, almost 20 years later, simply because of that funeral.

Additionally, a lot was made of my Grandpa's favorite, nay, his theme song after he died in 2002. It played at memorial services, his funeral, his graveside service, and the title was on every program and obituary, it's even on his headstone. And now I can never hear Roger Miller's "King of the Road" without crying.

Caveat: I am definitely a music person and I have a sensitive personality so emotional stuff makes me cry pretty easily, so your mileage will definitely vary.
posted by elsietheeel at 8:23 PM on December 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

I think everyone grieves differently, so no one person can provide a definitive perspective. I lost my father suddenly and there are definitely a couple of songs I associate with the experience, and one in particular that takes me right back 20+ years. They aren't really the song that was performed at the service - I do remember that as well but it doesn't have the same resonance. If there was background music at the service, I honestly couldn't tell you.

I don't necessarily think it's a bad thing that there's a song out there that makes me think of how I felt when my dad died; although it did blindside me a few times especially in the early years. The only thing that would have been unfortunate for me would be if a song that already had meaning to me was then associated with the grief.

If this is only intended as background music, it might make sense to pick songs without lyrics.

I'm sorry for your loss, and I think it's good you are sorting things out, taking some of the load off your dad is probably very helpful to him right now.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 9:01 PM on December 12, 2018 [4 favorites]

There are several pieces of common music that still make me cry in public when they come on the radio after my dad's funeral 15 years ago. I still don't regret choosing them though because they are so linked to him.
posted by kadia_a at 10:31 PM on December 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

Have you asked them what they would prefer? I mean you are probably overthinking but at the same time it’s a valid question
posted by koahiatamadl at 2:01 AM on December 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

Almost two years ago I attended a service for a friend who passed after a two years of dealing with breast cancer. She had three music selections. I don’t remember the first, another was by Florence Foster Jenkins - which left everyone laughing, and was a perfect example of her humor.

The other was the Talking Heads, “This Must be the Place (Naive Melody).” I’ve always liked the song, but it wasn’t one of my favorites or anything. I will probably never hear that song again without misting up a bit (or a lot), but I also don’t mind. The song is not ruined, just much more meaningful. I’m very much a music person.
posted by jzb at 2:58 AM on December 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

I lost both of my parents and my brother before I turned forty, so I've experienced a lot of grief for people who were close and died too young. I can only name one song that played at any of those funerals (Ave Maria at my dad's because it made my mother cry), but there are definitely songs I associated with those people, and yes, they make me sad when I hear them on the radio, though they aren't sad songs. (I can't hear Herman's Hermits Henry VIII without bursting into tears.)

The thing is, that isn't bad. Your father will grieve for his mother his entire life - that's just how things work. Even if you could make every single material thing associated with her disappear from the world forever, he would still grieve. In fact, one of the really hard things about going through a death is that some people don't mention it because they fear that they will "remind you," when in fact, a great hole has been ripped through the universe, you're thinking of it constantly, and they could no more remind you of it than remind you that the sky is blue. It's just there. All the time. (The even harder thing is that people expect you to get over it quickly, and in fact, you never get "over it." Never. The best thing someone said to me is that it's like losing your arm. You learn to live with it, but you're never the same.)

So choose music that your grandmother liked, that seems meaningful, that seems right to you. Don't worry about whether listening to it later will make your father sad. Your father is going to be sad, and that's OK. The sadness is a testament to what his mother meant to him. She was in the world, her existence mattered, it's hard that she's gone, and there's nothing wrong with that. (I know you are grieving too, and I'm sorry for that, but it will be harder for your father, and you're concerned about him, which is why I'm mostly addressing his grief here.)
posted by FencingGal at 4:54 AM on December 13, 2018 [7 favorites]

Caveat: because it sounds like a long list, I'm assuming wake/reception not music during the service. Opinions below would change if you're talking about 1-3 pieces of music to be played while everyone sits quietly and listens, rather than background music while people are socializing or the soundtrack to a slide show.

I say there are basically 3 types of song:
1. If he associates certain songs with your grandmother, they're going to resonate with him whenever he hears them, and he'll be sad but reminded of the love. And if you choose that song for the playlist then it's just par for the course that'll be the first time of many that he'll feel sad hearing it, your choice didn't change anything.
2. If he doesn't already associate a song with her, it will just be background music when he hears your playlist. He'll recognize the song in the moment, but it probably won't stick as "they played this at mom's funeral" every time it comes on the radio. Your choice didn't change anything.
3. I would say it is very very improbable that his ear would latch onto a song when he hears it and begin thinking of your grandmother from that point forward. It sounds like this is what you're most concerned about, but unless it's a playlist he's likely to be actively listening to, I'd expect this to be so rare you couldn't possibly plan around it.

For general song-choice advice, maybe ask your dad what he thinks: "I know you and grandma both listened to WXXX radio sometimes, are there particular songs you think we should choose for the wake, or would you rather I choose something else entirely?"
posted by aimedwander at 9:08 AM on December 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

Thanks all for the perspectives.
posted by womb of things to be and tomb of things that were at 4:57 PM on December 14, 2018

Chiming in late, but I think your concern is valid. My dad, who is still alive, has said that he wants Louis Armstrong's What a Wonderful World played at his memorial service after he dies. Now, I can't hear that song, by any artist, without thinking about my dad's inevitable death. Sigh
posted by poppunkcat at 5:14 PM on December 19, 2018

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