Steph and I bonded over lots of things, music was one of the first things we realised we had in common. We spent so much time listening to music and we loved nothing more than going on a road trip to a gig. Choosing the music for our wedding was really important to us, we had a live band instead of a DJ. So choosing the music for her funeral was something I put a lot of thought into.
St Thomas’ Church Service
Steph’s entrance: “Brighter Than Sunshine” – Aqualung
This was the song Steph walked down the aisle to at our wedding 3 and a half years earlier. Several years before I had posted a series of photos of her on Moblog (a photo sharing site we both used) quoting the song lyrics. Shortly before her 30th birthday she decided to get her first tattoo – she had these words tattooed on her left foot. The song is so bright and positive it was perfect for our wedding and I thought it was equally perfect for Steph’s funeral.
Hymn: “One more step along the world I go”
Steph picked this hymn for our wedding. I’m not a hymn singer myself but she really wanted everyone to join in singing and this was a hymn that she had fond memories of singing at primary school. It was her funeral and there’s no way I wasn’t going to include a hymn – this just felt right again.
Reflecting at the Church: “Profondo Blu” – Fabrizio Paterlini
Only a few weeks ago I’d heard this amazing, moving piece of piano music on a YouTube video. I immediately sought out the artist / album.
We listened to the album ‘Viandanze’ in our recently re-arranged living room just relaxing at home. We loved it so much that we ended up listening to the album in bed on several occasions and drifted off to sleep – I remember Steph commenting that it was “really beautiful” – and that’s why this felt right for reflection.
I hadn’t paid much attention to what the Italian song titles meant until after I’d decided on the tracks for the funeral, but this one roughly translated means ‘Deep Blue’ which was very fitting.
Steph’s Exit: “You Are The Best Thing” – Ray Lamontagne
This was the song we left the Church to a married couple – I chose this one for our wedding day.
Ray Lamontagne’s music is normally much more dark and brooding than this, so it’s an uncharacteristically upbeat song for him – I love the sentiment of the lyrics, the triumphant chorus and the motown feel it has. Yet again I couldn’t think of a more appropriate song.
Steph’s journey to the Crematorium
As Jordan and I travelled with Steph in ‘Hearsby’ the VW Camper Van, I picked a few songs to listen to. Well, all of them apart from one…
“Baby Got Back” – Sir Mixalot
This was a song Steph loved singing and dancing to. When Jordan was 6 he used to love singing and dancing to it with her. We have a video of him dancing and also a video of Steph more recently dancing around our living room during a girls night in.
Steph and her sister Emma also semi-joked that they’d play this at each other’s funeral, who was I to get in the way of the ‘Jennings sisters’!?!
“One Day Like This” – Elbow
Our wedding dance song. Not being much of dancer I was unsure whether I’d be up for this at our wedding. As it turned out, we danced and it was amazing. One of my favourite photos of Steph is of her smile as we danced that day.
In a moment of synchronicity, when we arrived in the tiny Peak District village of Tideswell for our honeymoon, the three of us went for a wander and we could hear this song somewhere, but it sounded different. We walked around the village following the sound until we came across the village hall where the local brass band was playing our song!
I don’t think we’d danced anywhere (other than maybe the kitchen or living room) since our wedding until the weekend before her death, when we danced at her step-Dad’s 60th birthday party. I’m really glad we did that.
“Just Breathe” – Pearl Jam
I don’t need to bore anyone with my love of Pearl Jam (or my Eddie Vedder story), but we asked our good friend Dan Whitehouse (who was partly responsible for us meeting) to perform this song whilst we signed the register at our wedding. It as another song that just felt right.
“Most People” – Dawes
Dawes are a band we’d both fallen in love with in the past couple of years and we’d been to see them in Manchester for the second time this October. I love the lyrics and the feel of this song and Steph did too.
“Stories Don’t End” – Dawes
Again, another song we both liked – the lyrics to this popped into my head a few days after Steph died and the album it’s taken from (with the same name) was something we’d listed to a lot. Steph’s story doesn’t end here.
Steph’s Entrance: “Nuovi orizzonti” – Fabrizio Paterlini
The second track from Fabrizio’s album felt so calming and somehow hopeful, despite being an instrumental. Again, to my surprise when I translated the title of the song I’d chosen for us to enter the crem, it was astoundingly fitting – ‘New Horizons’. I hadn’t been looking for symbolising or significance in these instrumental piano pieces, we both just enjoyed them, but it was another moment of funeral planning that felt like it was already planned out for me and I just had to join the dots!
The Committal: “Good Riddance (Time of your life)” – Green Day
I really struggled to pick a song for this moment. How do you pick a song for this moment? In the end, the song picked me. I’d spent the week prior the funeral driving around a lot on my own visiting people & doing errands related to the funeral, including taking Steph’s clothes to the undertakers.
I couldn’t listen to ‘my/our’ music as it was too emotionally hard, so I’d been listening to Absolute Radio. Three times that week this song had come on the radio in the car. It was pointing me in the direction I needed to go!
Slowly I realised that it was perfect. The fact it’s a ballad played & sung by a punk band – it’s beautiful, but filled with attitude – just like Steph! The title is loaded with wit and sarcasm – just like Steph! Green Day are a band she loved from her teens onwards and they were the first band we took Jordan to see in a big arena.
If that weren’t enough, when I paid proper attention to the lyrics, the lines about taking photographs, tattoos on display, time grabbing you by the wrist and the unpredictability of life (and death) it became clear that there couldn’t be a more fitting song to play to say goodbye to Steph after such a sudden, unexpected end to her life. The chorus is also resolutely positive, just like her!
Leaving the Crem: “Carol Of The Bells”
I ended my spoken tribute to Steph in the Church quoting her final tweet in which she had tweeted the lyrics to this song.
We’d been listening to it the night before she died as it was part of the soundtrack for a dance piece that was due to be performed at the Christmas Lights event we’d organised. Steph loved Christmas and I remember her being moved by a primary school performance of this song at a Carol concert in St Thomas’ Church the previous year.
She also would have wanted her big day to end on a positive note and the repeated “Merry Merry Merry Christmas” just felt right for her, especially given that her funeral was on 22nd December.
I couldn’t decide on one version as the traditional version is very short – so we had two versions; a traditional arrangement by John Williams (from the Home Alone soundtrack) and a contemporary version by Moya Brennan.
Well done if you got the end of this – I appreciate this is a very personal thing to write about and the song choices are personal, but I wanted to record this not only for myself, but in the hope it might help someone else grieving choose songs for a loved one’s send off.
Making decisions in the aftermath of someone’s death is incredibly hard, but the significance of the music to me and other family members has definitely bought some comfort. So my advice would be; don’t Google ‘popular funeral songs’, dig deep and try to find songs that mean something to the person you’ve lost.
Here’s a Spotify Playlist.