There were about 400 people at the memorial, and of course there was a large law enforcement presence. In addition to prayers and eulogies, the formal honor guard brought in the ash urn, performed the ritual salutes and the flag folding and presentation. There was a three volley gun salute, a last radio call, and then bagpipes.
A lot of of our most comforting funeral/memorial traditions have old, old origins. The custom of wearing unadorned black clothing for mourning dates back at least to the Roman Empire. The singing of sad songs (country style around here) comes from the ancient Greece threnody (a song, hymn or poem of mourning composed or performed as a memorial to a dead person). In ancient Rome families carried masks in the likeness of the deceased in the funeral procession - today we use photographs. The gun salute custom originates from the European dynastic wars, where three shots were fired into the air to signal that battle could resume after a break for removing the dead and wounded. Bagpipes, too, are associated with warfare; Scottish warriors used musical instruments to intimidate their English adversaries as early as the 14th century - and we all know that there is something about that particular sound that bypasses the thinking brain and goes directly to the emotional centers. Even the tradition of post-memorial food is from ancient Greece’s perídeipnon, a dinner after the burial.
Amazing Grace, played on the bagpipes, is a shot to the heart no matter what your beliefs. You don’t even have to be that familiar with the lyrics to feel it as a spiritual anthem when it’s performed as an instrumental as it was today. Just about my favorite version of Amazing Grace is performed by Walela (featuring Rita Coolidge) and is sung in Cherokee. And yeah, there are bagpipes in the background.
Good bye Jimmy, we will miss you.