There are funerals that are totally unabashed about being funerals, and that can be perfect. There are funerals that try not to funerals, that want to be celebrations of the life of the beloved dead, but they don’t quite take off, and turn out to be funereal celebrations — that can be what needs to happen, sometimes, too. And then there are memorials in celebration of a life that’s ended that really flower into jubilation. Jubilation punctuated by people taking turns breaking down in tears, but still. It doesn’t sound quite right to call those celebratory funerals — a celebratory funeral would be something else, I suppose, and I’m lucky that I’ve never been to one. But this thing that happened yesterday, it was like nothing else.
I’m just home from a memorial that broke, for a little while, into a dance party.
After the ritual was over, with its storytelling and singing, one of the mourners who’s a wedding DJ by profession set off a playlist of the music Keith had loved. It was quiet enough for everybody to converse over, just loud enough to give us a steady stream of Keith’s aesthetic as a sort of undercurrent.
Until we came to Delta Rae’s “Dance in the Graveyards.” Now, before you run off to YouTube to hear the most joyful song I’ve ever heard that also deals honestly with loss, consider whether you have some tissues handy and you’re someplace where it’s okay to have watery eyes for a few minutes — in which case, watch this heartbreakingly beautiful video. If you’re someplace where you can’t let your hair down quite that much, here’s a version that gives just the audio and the lyrics. It’s okay to go check those out. I’ll be here when you get back.
So you see why dancing erupted.
We were under the stars, with candles lit in the hundred or so candle holders Keith left behind (because that’s how we Pagan hoarders roll). “Careful of the candles!” said some wise person. The only word that made it through the burst of perfect song was candles, so we all found ourselves picking up those hundred candle holders and holding them aloft while we danced.
Our resident DJ being awesome, he put the song right back on, louder, and we sang along at the tops of our lungs, improvising harmonies as we went.
So many moments in the shockingly brief time between Keith’s diagnosis and his memorial have unfolded perfectly — perfectly except for happening about forty years too early. Keith would have made an excellent octogenarian. Aside from that one rendingly wrong thing, I’m thinking what most of us are: when it’s my time (long and far may it be), if you can’t find my instructions and I can’t tell you how I want things, just ask the people who were there what they did for Keith.
And if you’re reading this, you are cordially invited to dance in my graveyard.