The Soundtrack of Your Life

People often talk about ‘thinking out of the box’ and Ronnie really did.

He knew he wanted lots of music for his funeral but what he REALLY didn’t want was for me to do what I normally do, and that was to talk about his life.

When I met his wife Alison and their family, we talked about our quandary for an hour before coming to the conclusion that should have been obvious; to do exactly as Ronnie wished, and trace the arc of his life through music.

Alison told me that Ronnie had been a big fan of the late great Spike Milligan, described by Eddie Izzard as ‘the godfather of alternative comedy’, so in between the songs, we shared some of Spike’s best known sayings.

Something I already knew was that when Spike died, he was adamant that his epitaph, “I told you I was Ill” should be engraved upon his tombstone. Ronnie was being cremated, so instead, the family made up a photo frame with the quote to sit beside the catafalque where his coffin rested throughout the ceremony.

As befitted a fan of Ska, Reggae and Punk, Ronnie’s Order of Ceremony looked like an album cover, and the playlist was excellent!

Humanism is a very simple philosophy. Essentially what it asks is that we try to be kind and try to think for ourselves. Ronnie made me think a lot harder for a lot longer than anyone for whom I have ever conducted a funeral, and I’d like to thank him for that!

As a celebrant, I am delighted that Ronnie wanted to break all the rules. I’m also glad that he told everyone what he wanted to happen at the end of his life. That is so rare! Most people don’t have a clue what they want because they can’t bring themselves to think about not being here any longer, and of course what that means is that – when the time comes – most families really don’t know what to do, so they make lots of decisions without really thinking, because when someone dies, you just do “the normal thing”. 

I hope that Ronnie inspires many other people to think about what they want when the time comes – and inspires them to tell the people they love before they go.

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