Events that are associated with a lot of emotion are usually well-remembered by attendees. And there are few events that are as emotional as funerals. So we tend to remember most things that happen at funerals. Some funerals are particularly memorable however.
Although I grew up around a funeral home, the first funeral I remember was one that I saw on television, the funeral of John F. Kennedy which took place when I was 9 years old. I remember seeing his flag-draped casket lying in state in the Capitol Building. Then there was the enduring image of Jacqueline Kennedy with the young children, Carolyn and John Jr, around her at the start of the funeral procession. Then the procession to St. Matthews Cathedral led by the horse-drawn hearse with Jacqueline Kennedy and other dignitaries, including Robert and Edward Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and many heads of state, walking behind her. Then there was the service at St. Matthews and interment at Arlington National Cemetery and the lighting of the eternal flame. I remember thinking that it must be very important to honor the life of President Kennedy.
A few years ago, Moore’s had a funeral with a horse-drawn hearse for Mother Tucker, a woman known locally for providing food for poor people in Tulsa.
Other funerals that are memorable because of the processions are those of motorcycle enthusiasts. “Biker funerals” are often led by a motorcycle hearse (“Harley hearse”) followed by dozens or sometimes hundreds of bikers. The caskets of firefighters killed in the line of duty are sometimes placed on fire trucks which lead the procession.
Personalization at funerals makes them memorable. Personalization refers to remembering the qualities or attributes of a person that makes them unique. There was a woman who made a lot of quilts. The quilts were displayed at the visitation and service and draped over the casket. Another person collected teddy bears which were displayed at the visitation and service and everyone attending the service was given a teddy bear to take home, complete with adoption papers, as a memory of the deceased. Golf or fishing gear is sometime displayed if those were an interest of the deceased. We had a funeral recently for a man who had been in the military, was a drag racer, and a physician. Several of the jackets or coats he had worn during his life, including his military jacket, racing jacket, and white physicians coat were displayed at the front of the chapel.
Eulogies and tribute videos are particularly memorable. We had a service for a man who was a quarterback for the Oklahoma Sooners football team when they won the national championship and later became a sports broadcaster and analyst. The tribute video at his funeral showed him quarterbacking the OU football team, undoubtedly on the way to another victory, and later interviewing legendary football coach Bear Bryant while working as a sports broadcaster. Football is hugely popular in Oklahoma and some people choose to have the OU fight song “Boomer Sooner” played at the conclusion of their funeral.
At the funeral for a loyal Oklahoma state football supporter the mascot for the Oklahoma State University Cowboy football team, Pistol Pete, showed up with pistols waving. At another funeral, for a former Arkansas Razorback football player, the hogs were called in as is done at Razorback football games.
We had a funeral a few years ago for a high school classmate of mine who had been the star of the high school football and baseball teams. The story was told of how he scored from first base on a single to win the state championship in baseball. His son gave a tremendously moving eulogy for his dad who had been a bit demanding but who had been a great dad that he respected greatly. The tribute video featured the songs “You’re the Inspiration”, “You’ll Be In My Heart”, and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”. which we all thought was a very thoughtful selection of music.
At another high school classmate’s funeral, the song “You Don’t Have To Call Me Darlin’, Darlin'” was played as we all sang along. The selection of music played at funerals, ranging from traditional hymns to secular music with spiritual themes, makes them memorable. “On Eagles Wings” and “In the Garden” are lovely selections. Elvis had many fans and his recordings such as “You Were Always On My Mind” are often played. “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “Unforgettable” are other popular choices.
A funeral which I heard about was for a young man with disabilities who was confined since birth to a wheelchair. He had always wanted to go to the amusement park and ride the rides but had not been able to do so. Following his death he was cremated. His memorial service was held at the amusement park and then the urn, containing his ashes, was carried on the various rides at the park. So, following his death, he was finally able to ride on the rides.
Some people arrange to have custom personalized caskets. One man had a casket shaped like a Nascar. Another person had a casket shaped like a piano.
Finally, a few people have wanted a unique monument. The monument for country music legend Bob Wills in Texas has a picture of Bob with the lyrics “Deep within my heart lies a melody” from his most famous song “San Antonio Rose”. The most powerful monument I’ve seen was that of a young boy rising up from his wheelchair to reach the sky. I’ve posted a picture of this monument on our Moore Funeral Home facebook page.
Truly, funerals are unforgettable.