Yesterday was a first. I sang for a funeral.
The normal mindset for singing is something along the lines of, "Gee, I hope they like it. I wonder how big the crowd will be? I hope there's a lot of good energy." For a funeral, the thoughts are quite different.
"Dear God, PLEASE don't let me screw up!"
My biggest fear was crying in front of the family during a song. I tend to be... ah, just a little emotional at times. Old Yeller? Cried. Bambi's Mom? Cried. Puff the Magic Dragon? Ran out of the room. Hell, I was sniffling during Steve Irwin's memorial, and I'd never met the dude!
It's my dad's fault, really. When I was about two, he was fooling around on the guitar and started playing some minor chords. As he tells it, my eyes got big and I stared at him. He added lyrics to the mournful-sounding chords.
"There were four frozen puppies...
And their mother was cold and dead..."
That was it. "WAHHHHHH!!" Jeez, my eyes are watering even now...
Dad immediately switched to a major key and played something happier, which cheered me up right away. Back to the minor key and the sad lyrics...
Back to the happy tune...
He used to entertain visiting friends with this little party trick. "Hey, watch this!" I am now able to cry onstage at the drop of a hat, just by thinking of that song. It still freakin' works. I am also totally unable to listen to any remotely emotional song without my nose running. I am a musical wuss. Hence, my fear of singing for this funeral.
First on the list was "Fly Away" by John Denver. Very pretty song, but venturing into dangerous territory. Since the service was held in a church, I was able to maintain the illusion that we were performing a typical Sunday service. The next song was "I Can Only Imagine". I didn't sing this one, because I don't know it that well, and a funeral is no place to fake your way through a song. Our drummer friend sang it instead.
All was fine until the two oldest children of the family showed a slide show of pictures of their mom, accompanied by some favorite songs. One was by some country singer, and the general sentiment was, "She was so young, now she's with the angels..."
Oh, crap. There goes the bottom lip. I immediately pictured a singer being beaten with his own guitar. "BONGGGG!" went the sound effects in my head. Sick? Yes, indeedy! Preferable to crying in front of the family, considering the fact that they were already having a terrible enough day? Abso-freaking-lutely!
Composure was maintained, and we made it through the last song, "Angel Band". I thought about the fact that every single funeral I've attended has been for someone I didn't even know. I thought about the power of a series of notes and words. Yes, I also thought, "Thank you, God! We made it!"
Mostly, I thought about the fact that never again will the family members be able to hear those songs without remembering their mom, sister, daughter.
And neither will I.