Swan Song: Organizing “The Party Of Your Life”

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Not that I’m dying, but I’m choosing songs for my funeral: Elvis Perkins, Lennon, Macy Gray. Dr. John for feeling. 

Oh, and you. Sing lots of folk songs in your own voice.

I’ve been reading Erika Dillman's The Party of Your Life: Get the Funeral You Want by Planning It Yourself (Santa Monica Press, 2011). It’s a funny, yet insightful, way to think about your last "party."

She covers everything, from leaving directions for the disposal of your body, to what type of service and who should be invited (or not).

And, perhaps most importantly, Dillman encourages you to spend some time thinking about the songs you want heard at your service/party.

A good funeral mix, Dillman says, "will provide the cues your guests need to cry, to laugh, and to get off their asses and dance. The music of your death is really the music of your life."

So, what is the soundtrack of your life? If you don’t choose the playlist, you’ll likely be stuck with sad, melancholy hymns, and no one wants that.

If you’re having trouble getting started, Dillman has some jumping off points:

* Songs you can’t die without. Make a lasting and dramatic impact. Turn on the waterworks.

* Songs that make you happy. Don’t worry about what’s out of season or cool. If your favorite song is "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer," put it on the playlist. Keep in mind it’s your funeral; no one will begrudge you a little Cher.

* Songs you sing aloud. What’s the song you can’t help but sing along to or air-guitar jam with each time you hear it?

* Lloyd Dobler songs. If that name doesn’t mean anything to you, watch this. You may as well watch High Fidelity while you’re at it; it’s referenced in these pages, too.

* Songs you have a crush on. You know, that new song that you’ve listened to everyday for past month. You don’t have to like the song (or even know who sings it!). It’s pop music in its truest form.

For her own last song at her "party," Dillman has already chosen a waltz. How appropriate. She’s also planned a goodie bag with an iTunes gift card for each guest so they can download her funeral mix for themselves to remember her by.

But back to me: So far, I’m thinking "Doomsday" by Elvis Perkins because it starts as a dirge, then picks up steam. "I Will" by The Beatles because my friend sang it at my wedding for me and wife.

Lennon’s "Imagine" as a sing-a-long because everyone knows the words and it’s still meaningful. Either "Beauty in the World" or if I’m feeling particularly prickly when I check out, "Finally Made Me Happy" by Macy Gray. 

Next, anything upbeat by Dr. John and/or Professor Longhair for a dance tune/second line march. And finally, maybe Kermit and Fozzie singing, "Movin’ Right Along." 

No tear jerkers, but a solid representation of my taste.

When James Hill isn't working for Athens County Public Libraries, he can be heard Saturday mornings on WOUB AM's Radio Free Athens from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m.