Chapter 10

Music for Departure

It's never easy saying farewell and music holds great healing powers and can bring a sense of peace at the end. Goodbyes often get caught in your throat. Those in attendance know it's time to go but need a little help. It may be easier to let someone sing or play a musical selection. Employing music at the conclusion of the service as people leave may help with the discomfort of transition to the good-byes as everyone moves back into daily life. The right song, from upbeat anthems to slow and gentle see-ya-laters, can help move feet toward the door, 

Here is what you might say to introduce this last piece.  

“Before we take our leave, and to help send us on our way, listen to a final song that was a particular favorite of [Name's] and held special significance for him/her.”

“As we leave here today in order to help send us on our way I'm going to read a short poem called [Poem title] after which there will be music by [Composer or Artist].”

“When you leave here shortly I hope you do so with a real sense of having shared in something special for a very special person. But for our final moment please remain seated as we reflect in a simple private way on [Name's] life.”

What song would you want played at your send off? Perhaps the most touching song choices are those made by the deceased in their lifetime -- songs they hoped would reassure and comfort the loved ones they left behind. 

In choosing a final song you want one that means something to you or says something about you. It can be a hard decision for oneself. And, finding the best tunes for a loved ones’ farewell can be even more challenging. But, you’ll know when you’ve found the perfect funeral song because it will touch you and instantly remind you of them. 

A song at a funeral is a lovely way to pay tribute to a dearly loved one. Music is an important element of a funeral ceremony because it imprints itself on our hearts.  It helps us to process feelings that are too difficult to put into words. For people of faith, these feelings are often best expressed in hymns. 

More traditional music is also popular for a reason. You don’t have to be a classical music fan to be moved by the beauty and powerful emotions of funeral requiems. 

And, there’s no rule that says happy songs aren’t appropriate. Choosing the right song can be a great way to make everyone smile and have the last laugh (literally). My favorite aunt’s final song played at a sit down dinner held in her memory was “Sweet Caroline”. Now anytime I hear it drunkenly sung at a football game or on the radio—wherever I’m at, sweet memories of her automatically spring to mind. The best songs for a friend are those that help you reminisce on the good times and reflect your special bond. 

Times have changed and it’s now more acceptable to have a mix that include hymns as well as appropriate popular selections. Where once it was a traditional hymn like Abide With Me that sent the funeral congregation reaching for their handkerchiefs, today it’s more likely to be a modern song like Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven. This change reflects how some are opting for a celebration of life.

Chapter 3, Music for Gathering, listed a number of songs and musical selections that would also be appropriate to end the service, but just in case none of these fit your sense of the service, and to give you some inspiration, here is a selection of popular funeral songs as well as some more unusual choices. Some I only note the lyricist. For others I have share my preference of artist. Numerous orchestras, bands and singers have performed each of these selections. Choose your favorite, trust your intuition, and go with it.  

Traditional music for inspiration 

Ave Maria – Schubert

Nessum Dorma (No One Sleeps) – Puccini

Canon in D – Johann Pachelbel 

Air on a G String - Bach

Con te partiro (Time to Say Goodbye) by Francesco Sartori – sung by    Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman


It Is Well With My Soul – Horatio Gates Spafford

Be Thou My Vision – attributed to St. Dallan Forgaill

The Lord’s My Shepherd

Amazing Grace

In the Sweet By and By – Sanford Fillmore Bennett

Melancholy songs

Halleluiah – Leonard Cohen orJeff Buckley

Song for a Winter’s Night – Gordon Lightfoot or Sarah McLachlan

I Will Remember You – Sarah McLachlan

The Rose – Bette Midler

And So It Goes - Jennifer Warner 

Songs to make you smile 

Always Look on the Bright Side of LifeMonty Python’s Life of Brian

Morning Has Broken – Eleanor Farjeon

Don’t Worry. Be Happy – Bobby McFerrin

I’ll Fly Away – Albert E. Brumley

You Are the Sunshine of My Life – Stevie Wonder

When the Saints Go Marching In – Louis Armstrong 

Music for Mom

Like a River - Carly Simon

You Raise Me Up - Josh Groban

Mama - Il Divo

One Sweet Day – Mariah Carey & Boyz II Men

I Will Always Love You – Dolly Parton or Whitney Houston

Music for Dad

Butterfly Fly Away – Miley Cyrus

Dance With My Father – Luther Vandross

Thank You for Being My Dad - Jon Barker

In the Living Years - Mike & the Mechanics

Hero – Mariah Carey

Music for a friend

Lean on Me – Bill Withers

Stand By Me – Ben E. King

Smile – Nat King Cole

You’ll Never Walk Alone – Oscar Hammerstein ll

I’ll Be There For You (Friends theme song)  – 

That’s What Friends Are For – Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager

Music of Hope

Weather the Storm – Benjamin Scheuer

One Little Candle - Joseph Maloy Roach

You Raise Me Up - Josh Groban 

I Dreamed a Dream – Susan Boyle

Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World  - Braddah IZ

Music of Comfort 

We’ll Meet Again - Vera Lynn

I’ll See You Again – Westlife

You Are Not Alone – Michael Jackson

Tears in Heaven – Eric Clapton

Right Here Waiting – Richard Marx

Funny songs 

Spirit in The Sky – Gareth Gates

I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead – Bon Jovi

Another One Bites the Dust – Queen

I’m Gonna Live Forever – Fame, the musical

And When I Die – Blood, Sweat and Tears

I Will Survive - Gloira Gaynor 

Stayin’ Alive  - The Bee Gees

Messages from the grave

Forever Young  Joan Baez

The Prayer -  Andre Boccelli and Celine Dion

My Wish For You – Rascal Flatts

Don’t You Forget About Me – Simple Minds

Thank You for Loving Me – Bon Jovi

I Hope You Dance – Lee Ann Womack