There is nothing so satisfying as a fine funeral.
Being a funeral aficionado may be an odd quirk, but that description is part of my personal brand.
Words, music, texts, tears are all the currency of grief. As a writer I lean forward to hear which nouns and adjectives, which phrases describe the deceased. I look for succinct and economical eulogies. As a lifetime church musician I have a broad exposure to a treasury of hymns and anthems. Which songs have been chosen to commemorate this life, this death? An an incurable reader and a Bible-loving Christian, I am familiar with many classic texts for funerals. I wonder if there is a poem or a paragraph that speaks to this moment. Finally, as a sojourner in this world where pain is a daily companion, I want to be moved; this is the time and season for tears.
Here are my thoughts on Barbara Bush’s funeral. You can watch it on YouTube. The funeral program is here. I call it the high-church version of Billy Graham’s funeral. His was an outside service under a tent. Hers was in St. Martin’s Episcopal church with stained glass and soaring ceilings. I’m a closet Anglican who loves the liturgy.
Prelude: My Country ‘Tis of Thee I have never imagined this as a funeral anthem, but as arranged by Mack Wilburg and sung by the cathedral choir and accompanied by a bright brass section, and as a nod to Barbara Bush’s legacy of public service it was amazing.
There are all kinds of body language to read in these situations.
George W. pushing his father in a wheelchair.
When W had been seated, he turned to look at his daughters and winked. It wasn’t a creepy wink, just an acknowledgement.
Doro (Barbara’s daughter) sat next to 41, with her arm affectionately around him.
Entrance: Praise to the Lord
I love this hymn. And it can only be properly sung with an organ. Joachim Neander wrote the words. He was such a beloved poet that a valley was named after him: Neanderthal. (thal = valley in German)
My acute disappointment was in the omission of the fourth verse (in my hymnbook) with these words: How oft in grief, hath he not brought thee relief, spreading his wings to o’ershade thee!
I love prayers from the Book of Common Prayer. “Nourish them with patience, comfort them with a sense of your goodness.”
Job’s words are the BEST:
I know that my Redeemer liveth,
and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth;
and though this body be destroyed, yet shall I see God;
whom I shall see for myself and mine eyes shall behold, and not as a stranger.
Not a Fan
In the Garden – but this is the song BPB’s generation loved
The Holy City – just not my favorite, but well sung
Yes, Yes, Yes
Barbara Bush’s granddaughters reading Proverbs 31
Three eulogies: an author, a friend, a son. All well done.
The homily and prayers.
Would That Every Christian Funeral Included
The Apostle’s Creed
The Lord’s Prayer
Her daughter read five lines from Romeo & Juliet
The processional was Beethoven’s Hymn to Joy.
“Giver of immortal gladness fill us with the light of day.”
I learned more about Barbara Bush from her choices for her service than I had previously known. Everything was in proportion. There was grief, but it was shot through with hope and peace.