Funeral songs

by Ken Sehested

When I was in seminary I remember thinking that all of us, as part of our final year of study, should be required to build our own casket, hauling it around as a storage chest wherever we lived, until the day for its final use. Odd as it sounds, the “remember you are dust” charge provokes an intensity and a freedom to the living of our days, chipping away at the anxiety that too often drives our frenetic habits.

Along that same line, one element of our congregation’s seven-week Lenten reflection group was beginning and ending each meeting by listening to songs participants’ want at their funeral service, in keeping with the season’s invitation to reflect on our own mortality.

Below is our list. Feel free to add your own suggestion, in the “comment” section at the page’s bottom or by sending it directly to me: (I’ll add it to the list on an ongoing basis.) These are in random order.

§ “How Can I Keep From Singing,” Judy Collins

§ “Symphony of Sorrowful Songs,” Henryk Górecki (1st movement, second part)

§ “Morning Has Broken,” Cat Stevens

§ “Who Will Watch The Home Place,” Laurie Lewis and Her Bluegrass Pals

§ “So May We All,” Charlie King & Bright Morning Star

§ “Psalm 23,” Bobby McFerrin

§ “Song of Peace (Finlandia),” Indigo Girls, with Michelle Malone

§ “Largo in D Flat” (“Going Home”), music by Antonin Dvorak, New World Symphony, piano

§ "Largo in D flat" (“Going Home"), music by Antonin Dvorak, performed by Libera

§ “Come Sunday,” Mahalia Jackson

§ “The Deer’s Cry,” (aka “St. Patrick’s Breastplate”), Rita Connolly, with the Curtlestown Choir

§ “In the Arms of An Angel,” Sarah McLachlan

§ “Lone Wild Bird,” Lynda Poston-Smith

§ “Ain’t No Grave [Can Hold My Body Down],” Johnny Cash

§ “O Love That Will Not Let Me Go,” Westminster Chorus

§ “It Is Well With My Soul,” Zero8 Chorus

And one special mention, this one full of levity, which also helps us stare death in the face without flinching: “Funeral Food,” Kate Campbell.

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Readers add to this list.

§ “Gabriel’s Oboe” [from “The Mission”], performed by Henrik Chaim Goldschmidt (from Michael S. Mulberry)

§ "What a Wonderful World," Louis Armstrong

§ “Foinn Bhriotáineacha,” Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill

§ "Long Time Traveller," Wailin’ Jennys

§ “Glory Bound,” Wailin’ Jennys

§ “I’m Coming Home,” Staples Singers

§ “Parting Friends,” Second Ireland Sacred Harp Convention (2012)

§ “Ashokan Farewell,” Jay Ungar and Molly Mason Family Band

§ “Precious Lord Take My Hand,” Aretha Franklin

§ “In My Time of Dyin’,” Bob Dylan

§ "Why Me, Lord?" Ray Charles & Johnny Cash

§ “Now the Day Is Over,” Mormon Tabernacle Choir

§ “Tell Heaven,” Staples Singers

§ “Children of the Heavenly Father,” Concordia Choir

§ “I’m Not Afraid to Die,” Gillian Welch

§ “Wayfaring Stranger,” Rhiannon Giddens

§ “Blue Skies,” Ella Fitzgerald

§ “In My Life,” John Lennon

§ “Pressing On,” Bob Dylan

§ “Pussywillows, Cat Tails,” Gordon Lightfoot

§ “I’ll See You In My Dreams,” Joe Brown

§ “Keep Me In Your Heart,” Warren Zevon

§ “Imagine,” John Lennon

§ “Am I Born to Die,” Solas

§ "The Best Is Yet to Come," Frank Sinatra

§ “We Shall Walk Through the Valley in Peace,” Cantus/Chanticleer 

§ “Sit Down, Servant/Plenty Good Room,” Chanticleer

§ “Get Away, Jordan,” Take Six 

§ “Mary,” Take Six 

§ “A Gaelic Blessing,” John Rutter 

§ “The Lord Bless You and Keep You,” John Rutter 

§ “A Clare Benediction,” John Rutter, Cambridge Singers 

§ “We Shall Behold Him,” Sandi Patty 

§ “All Day Dinner,” Reba Rambo Gardner

§ "All Day Dinner," Allison Speer

§ “What a Day,” Phil Keaggy

§ “The Land of Oohs and Ahs / Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” Reba Rambo

§ “The Lord Is My Shepherd,” Keith Green

§ “The Lord Is My Shepherd,” John Rutter

§ “Lux Aeterna,” John Rutter

§ “Sheep May Safely Graze,” J.S. Bach (many versions—here is a lovely piano transcription by Georgian pianist Khatia Buniatishvili)