Singing Goodbye


This weekend I’m traveling to my husband’s hometown to sing at Santa’s funeral.

Well, he wasn’t the real Santa Claus, but he was one of Santa’s main helpers. Each year we celebrated Christmas in my husband’s lake town, this man would appear at the front door wearing a red and white suit, boots and a beard. He would have a large bag of toys in hand, and would shake when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly. His attempt to spread Christmas cheer each year in this way was just one of the many ways this exemplary man sowed love.

Now, after a decade of fighting pancreatic cancer, he’s moving on to bigger and better pursuits.

I’ve been asked to song-lead at his funeral and I’m honored to accept. Even though a funeral is a very emotional time, I’ve learned to pull myself together at such times to offer this final gift to those who have passed on. I often cry at some point if it’s someone I know well, either before or after, but I know while I’m up there singing that it’s not the time to for me to break down. It’s time for me to use what God has given me to lift up and comfort those who cry. Sometimes, I sense that my job is to give people permission to weep. Weeping can be a very healing and necessary act.

I still remember singing at my Aunt Lorraine’s funeral. At one point I made the mistake of looking out into the crowd and catching a glimpse of my father. He was looking upward and tears were streaming down his face. The song, it appeared, had allowed him to grieve his older sister’s passing. Suddenly, he was not my father but a small boy crying out for the older sister who had once nurtured him.

That almost did me in. Since then I’ve learned to be careful not to look out too much. I have to focus. I have to remind myself what’s at stake; that at that moment, I have a job to do. And for that duration, I need to be emotionally strong…because it’s not about me right then.

Honestly, I can think of few better ways to say goodbye. I start out thinking of it as a gift to the family, but inevitably, I’m the one who comes away feeling like I’ve received a gift.

The really cool thing is…I always sense that the deceased is there with me when I sing at a funeral. I believe that when I sing at our friend’s funeral this weekend, he’ll be there next to me and all the others, smiling away, reveling in the love that he sowed during his time on earth.

Q4U: When has music been a healing gift to you?

Copyright 2011 Roxane Salonen


About Author

Roxane B. Salonen, a wife and mother of five from Fargo, N.D., is an award-winning children’s author and freelance writer who also enjoys Catholic radio hosting and speaking. Roxane co-authored former Planned Parenthood manager Ramona Trevino’s memoir, Redeemed by Grace. Her work is featured on "Peace Garden Passage" at her website,


  1. Good luck to you this weekend. I have had the opportunity to sing at quite a few funerals myself and I am always so honored to be asked. I also learned my lesson a few years ago at a funeral about looking into the crowd while I was singing. I try to just tune into the music (ha!) and do my mourning later if I need feel the need to. God bless you and the wonderful man you will be saying goodbye to.

  2. Kari, what a sweet message. I’m happy to report that the funeral went very well and was a beautiful send-off. I felt very honored to help shine the light of Christ onto those in attendance through the gift of music. I loved hearing from you, knowing other musicians are experiencing the same and understand as I do how God will use every method possible to reach His children, and that we are but vessels for Him. :)It’s a beautiful life!

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