Elton John is one of my all-time favorite artists. Don’t mistake him for his music- I don’t always appreciate what he does as a person (just like I’m QUITE sure, if he knew me, he would not always appreciate what I do!), but I LOVE most of his music. In fact, the FIRST 8-track tape I owned was his Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy album…good stuff!
On October 5, 1973, he released the double album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. The opening track of that album is called Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding. Funeral For a Friend is an instrumental he wrote while thinking about what he would want played at his own funeral. He said that the 2 songs weren’t originally intended to fit together, but Funeral For A Friend ends in the key of A, the same key Love Lies Bleeding opens in, so the two were played as one long piece when recorded. The whole piece, at just over 11 minutes long, was too long to be released as a single, but did get some airplay on FM stations. Where it has REALLY found its niche is on tour.
The song is sad and mournful, beautiful and haunting. AND…a rather substantial departure from much of what he was doing at the time. But as I listen to it, I am reminded of one of the harder tasks a minister has…doing a funeral for (to paraphrase Mr. John) a NON-friend. In other words, officiating at the burial of someone you never met. Let me say right up front that it offends me big time to attend a funeral, when I KNOW the preacher never met the deceased, and hear them talk as if they were best buddies! (Blood pressure rising, anger building…!) It’s offensive. So when I do a funeral like that (and quite frankly…I do a LOT of funerals like that! I seem to have earned the reputation as “the funeral guy”…don’t know if that’s good or bad!), I say right up front that I didn’t know them. And then I work really hard to paint a picture of them, based on what I have uncovered.
While I am honored to officiate at someone’s funeral (I truly believe that we ALL deserve the dignity of being remembered when we die), I always am left wishing they would have had a relationship with a pastor so that they could be eulogized by someone who actually knew them. (I officiated at BOTH of my parents’ funerals, in large part because neither of them had a relationship with a pastor…well…that is, except me!)
Do you have a relationship with a pastor? (Don’t be funny…you KNOW what I mean!!) Is there someone who will be able to stand at your funeral and say, “I knew this person well and can tell you about their life”? I hope so…you deserve it. If you DON’T have that…yet another reason to get involved in a church. Try one- if you don’t like it, you can always try another! Keep church-shopping until you find the one that is right for you- it IS out there somewhere! And once you find it, dive in head first. Get involved. Become a part of the church family. It will be one of the best decisions you ever made!!
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