Led Zeppelin and the Funeral

We went to the funeral at the end of the summer. The deceased was an avid climber and hiker, husband, father, and grandfather. He was my husband’s boss and I liked him from the instant he introduced himself to me. He’d immediately asked how I liked living in Germany. I really like his wife, too.

We met on occasional evenings to share slide shows of each other’s travels. I vividly recall a show from their trip to Ladakh and the mountains of northern India. The perspective in his photos were taken at an  impossibly steep angle looking down from the tops of the peaks they climbed. Another image that remains with me is his photograph of a surreal parade of a string of camels, transporting salt across an African plain.

He was retired and they still had lots of plans. But he was diagnosed with ALS, and died a little over half a year later.

***

Over a hundred people came to the funeral. We were all reeling from his swift passing after the news of the diagnosis at Christmas. Due to coronavirus precautions, the family sat in the chapel and the mourners stood outside; a loudspeaker enabled all of us to follow the service. The pastor spoke of his community engagement, his occasionally blunt and acerbic honesty (I had never experienced my friend as anything other than gentle, so this insight surprised me), and his love of the world.

Bible passages were read. Tears from Heaven from Eric Clapton played during the service, and a song from a German band. Eventually it was time to follow the family members through the chapel to the gravesite. Uwe and I waited as people filed in a socially-distanced manner into the chapel.

A final song began. “There’s a lady who’s sure, all that glitters is gold….” Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven was playing. I arrived at the altar’s flowers and flickering candles. The song’s soaring music peaked as I passed the big portrait of our friend, bearded, wind-blown hair, – and a crazed genius grin on his face. I know I was both elated and teary-eyed.

if you don't know what this is...i don't know you. | Zeppelin art, Led zeppelin iv, Led zeppelin
Led Zeppelin (The Hermit) by Derek Velasquez

I had never, ever expected to hear Led Zeppelin at a funeral. That song was an absolutely glorious and fitting way to bid farewell and offer closure.

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2020. My German friends tell me that they’ve all been to funerals where Stairway to Heaven played. This was my first, and I’m still moved as I try to write about it.

The Trail Back Out is finished and available for purchase! In my new collection of short stories, two strangers meet in the woods. Children wear masks. A gambler hides in the cellar during a Category Five hurricane. A wife considers a hit-man’s offer. Princess Rain Clouds searches for happiness. An entire village flees, a life is saved, and a tourist in Venice is melting. Everyone keeps trying to make sense of strange events far in the past or about to occur. Let these characters be your guides. Join them on the trail back out – to a familiar world, now unexpectedly changed.

Click here for my author page to learn more about my books and me.

12 thoughts on “Led Zeppelin and the Funeral”

  1. Thanks Jadi. Your thoughts were meaningful as many of us have lost loved ones during this period. And I laughed when you referenced Led Zeppelin as I would be willing to bet that you listened to them – maybe even saw a live concert when you were at the U of O in Eugene (although you are probably too young) while I was probably going to a Mamas and Papas concert in Corvallis……Cheers Don

    1. One of the bands I never had the chance to see perform. And the UO stadium was not a great place to hear music – which didn’t stop us from going…. I hope you and your loved ones keep safe and healthy, Don

  2. A sendoff, yes, as others have said. So sorry for your loss. Those words sound so hollow as I write them. But know I mean them deeply.

  3. Many years ago a coworker’s son was killed in Afghanistan in a helicopter crash, and most of us went to the military funeral at the Point Loma cemetery. After the ceremony, returning to the car—we had ridden there with the deceased’s father—when he started up the car and the radio came on, “Stairway to Heaven” had just started playing. That was quite a moment …

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