Amazing, Grace…

“Yes.  i can play “Amazing Grace” on the guitar at the service.  You want me to sing it, too?”

Do you say “no” to a cousin who asks you to sing a hymn at a memorial service for her dead husband just because you’re a secular humanist?

Although he died in December, 2009, my cousin recently planned an internment ceremony for the cremains of her husband.  She didn’t want anything fancy, nor a lot of attendees – she mostly wanted his ashes out of her closet.

i’d known about the service for a few months, and had already planned to attend.  Had even worked to finish the renovation of the guest room/office so i could bring Mom to visit me Friday night, and then bring her with me to the service this morning.

The request for musical support came on Wednesday.  Enough time for me to blow the dust off the guitar, try a few chords and respond with confidence that i would be able to tease appropriate noises from the strings.

Arriving this morning, the minister suggested we do four of the six verses of the hymn.

daisyfae [attempting to hide shock]:  Oh, yeah!  That’s right… Six verses….

Reverend Lovejoy:  How about doing the first, second, third and sixth?

daisyfae:  Ummm… Yes!  That would be perfect.  Uh… Can i use the lyrics on your podium?

Six verses of “Amazing Grace”?  Who the hell knows all six verses of “Amazing Grace”?

Tuned up the guitar, and stashed it in a convenient spot.  Sat next to my cousin up front.  And tried really hard to steal glances at those lyrics as the minister started the service.

After the final prayer, it was time.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me…. 

[Well… the ‘wretch’ part is accurate at least…]

Through many dangers, toils and snares…
we have already come.

[Yes.  i have survived participation in religious services before…such as my wedding.] 

When we’ve been here ten thousand years…
bright shining as the sun. 

[No.  It just seems like ten thousand years… Is this the last verse?]

Turns out, there are some seriously grand acoustics in a marble-encrusted mausoleum chapel.  It also turns out that my eyesight is sufficient to read a 14 point font at arm’s length.

i sang my little atheistic heart out, faking enough sincerity to avoid the galactic taser.

The greatest challenge, however, had nothing to do with acoustics, vision or my personal beliefs.

Did you know that the most effective way to get rid of an ear worm is to do the following:

Sing the lyrics of “Amazing Grace” to the tune of the “Gilligan’s Island” Theme song.

Go ahead.  Try it.

Not as hard as you might think.  The more difficult rendition is to sing the lyrics of the “Gilligan’s Island” Theme song to the tune of “Amazing Grace”.  Which i have been recently trying to do…

The greatest catastrophe avoided this morning?  Not launching into:

Just sit…. RI-iiiight baaaaaaack, and you’ll hear… a tale…. 

A tale… of a fate-ful TRIP…

image found here.  who knew?

* You can also do “Amazing Grace” / “House of the Rising Sun”.  These guys do a festive job of managing to mix up all three… And if you spend any time trying to do any of these permutations?  You can rid yourself of the most vicious ear worm!

36 thoughts on “Amazing, Grace…

  1. Catholic funerals are the worst for me, since I’ve never been schooled in the myriad rituals. Mind you, that’s small potatoes compared to singing a hymn in front of the mourners. Good for you for honouring your cousin. And her dead husband.

    Reminds me. I still have a container of cremains in the basement that require a final resting place….

    • this was a fairly laid back service – maybe fifteen people there. agree that the catholic services are confusing, and i used to get tired with all the “stand up, sit down, kneel” stuff. before i decided that since i am not catholic, i should just relax and sit there politely…

      i’ve told my kids that i really don’t care what happens to the ashes. i suspect they’ll get creative. i’m good with that…

      • My eldest son’s father died recently. I hadn’t seen him for many years so it’s hard to know how to refer to him as we were never married. Anyway, his name was Myles and he was a good man. I went to the funeral to support my son and even though it was sad it was a wonderful affirmation of his life as a musician. His recordings were played intermittently through the service. And then there was a slide show of his life with a lovely photograph of the three of us together when we were a little family….

        • a good memorial service will do just that – affirm the life that was lived, and provide a chance to reflect on the human that is gone. good that you went with the eldest.

          what was interesting about this one? it was over a year ago that he died. his sons, and their families, were there, and rather than it being very somber and raw, it was very light and joyful. i liked that. letting some time pass is probably not a bad idea…

          as i hate the term “ex-husband”, i prefer “the father of my children”, or just “baby daddy” (depending on the audience).

  2. You did good.

    Much better than I would have managed. I arranged for my father’s ashes to be dug into the rose garden at the crematorium. When my mother died I wanted the same thing. Unfortunately they don’t do it anymore. I got lucky though – they seriously stuffed up the bill and various other things and arranged to spread mama to join father. Suited me right down to the ground.

    My father’s funeral service was another lucky break. He had just enough time after the cancer diagnosis to arrange it himself. Which he loved doing. ‘Good morning Rabbi, you don’t know me, but I want to arrange a funeral.’ ‘I am sorry, whose funeral are you arranging?’ ‘Mine.’
    Cue wicked laughter.
    And none of us would have guessed that he wanted a vaguely Jewish service so it worked out well.
    And I had no idea that Amazing Grace had that many verses.

    • thanks — i love my cousin. she is a good human, and i’d pretty much do anything she asked me to do. since she has a deeply dysfunctional younger sister, and her reasonably functional brother is older and lives far away, she’s asked me to see to the placement of her ashes in the same space in the mausoleum. As she is 15 years older than me? She’s hoping i’ll be around to manage the details…

      Your father done good. If there is any tiny, but shiny, lining in a longer term cancer diagnosis, it is that opportunity. It seems he used it very well… i may have to force a Native American/Jewish service on my friends and family. With a christmas tree and easter eggs thrown in for good measure!

        • i’ve considered having a ‘practice wake’ for my 50th party this summer – why have a huge throw down AFTER you’re dead and can’t enjoy it?

    • My Welsh is a bit rusty, but i love the idea of mixing spoken verse with song… except for anything by Rod McKewen. Suspect you remember that stuff. Ick. Mom loved it…

  3. Boy, I’m going to have to remmeber this, I get some of the most vicious earworms. Lately, I’ve been hearing the tunes from “Smash” — especially “History was made at night…” Arghh

    • It works – unless you over-use it, which i have. i’ve used this trick for years! Now? When i start to sing “Amazing Grace”, i usually start with the “Giligan’s” tune. Since i’d been working the other version, i had to stare closely at the lyrics – EVEN the well known first verse – to make sure i didn’t screw it up!

      Haven’t seen “Smash” yet, but i think i’d like it!

      • Did you know that there are several versions of Amazing grace/Gilligan on YouTube?

        “Smash” is actually quite a lot of fun, even though there is a lot of gratuitous sex there is no violence other than the backbiting and gossiping. Jim and I have been thoroughly enjoying it.

        • i found them when i was rooting around for the link i posted! very fun! i think i can add something like this to my stage set – if i ever do another one. i’ve done a combined “Hound Dog / Your Momma Don’t Dance” for decades. This one could be fun…

  4. Did I mention yet that I will have my revenge on you for introducing me to this? I’ve been trying to prepare for a two-hour presentation all week, and Gilligan and the Skipper too keep creeping into my consciousness.

    • if you haven’t gone to that link in the foot note? don’t do it. you’ll have all three songs battling for supremacy in your musical cortex… i dreamed about it last night. grrrr….

  5. Since one never knows what tomorrow will bring, I am putting my request in for the original Amazing Grace lyrics with the Gilligan’s Island harmony. I am also Catholic, but I will make sure the sons slip the priest a little extra in the envelope which should ensure quiet compliance.

    • i may have to tell my spawn to add this to the service ‘set list’. great idea… your idea of making sure the clergy is on board with the game is good insurance. i’d have to worry that my kid would pocket the cash and just threaten the clergy…

    • it is a beautiful song — and i have to say it’s my favorite as well. i have a love for old gospel music (the up beat kind… the stuff that gets everyone up and moving). but “Amazing Grace” doesn’t work that way. it’s just a sweet, simple, perfect melody…

    • i’m now going to have to spend the morning looking up video/audio. damn. and my boss expects me to be working for the next 8 hours… sorry boss. priorities.

  6. Well done for getting through that. I had to read a poem at Kirsty’s Dad’s funeral, and although it went fine in the end, the moment just before I read it required a fair degree of self-control, because I was fond of the bloke and it really was my farewell to him.

    I’ve been planning my funeral for some time now. Burial in a biodegreadable coffin in a local cemetary, an atheist service, and a huge pissup afterwards.

    • it’s so hard to get through those readings. very nice that you were able to say ‘farewell’. especially if it was after the divorce.

      the funeral planning is easy – burn me, toss the ashes somewhere entertaining. the party? i’ve actually given the kids a budget for that… “Huge pissup”. Yes. That’s what we’ll have to call it!

  7. good for you – to me the fact you don’t “believe” is irrelevant it was for the person who asked you and you were there when it matter… and that is what matters

    • had to fight off the initial reaction to run away – hypocrisy was the concern. i don’t prostheletize my beliefs (or lack thereof), and try to respect others. but she really didn’t want the service to end without music. so we did it. and had a wonderful time together afterwards. life is good.

    • But at least it’s a pretty tune. What is also really nice about “Amazing Grace”? It’s easy to sing — unless you get all “American Idol” on it and screw it up with lots of lilts and crap… So when sung by amateurs, in a church, it usually comes out sounding very nice…

      no video, silly… it was an internment. do people take video at funerals these days?

  8. It’d be better if the priest said, “Simon says kneel” and then “please stand” and then started laughing maniaclly as he told all those who stood that they were out and had to leave, defo lighten the mood me thinks… and i shouldn’t have read the part about those songs, i’ll be doing that all day now, beats working i guess…

    • you know? if they made a catholic service like a game of “Simon Says”? i might enjoy it a bit more. Or would it be “The Apostle Simon Says”? Better yet – “Holy Mother May I?”

      [zzzzzzap] Ouch! damn these lightning bolts…

    • thank you, dear. it was a nice visit with family — i think taking time between the actual death and a gathering mellows the intensity of the grief a bit, and makes it easier to enjoy each other as you gather to celebrate the life….

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