One of the favorite folk songs that American children learn either from their families or on the playgrounds deals with the gruesome subject of decomposition. The song's origins go back to the 19th century, at least, when it was documented among British soldiers serving in the Crimean campaign. The catchiness of the melody and the rare opportunity to speak humorously about the ugly side of death doubtlessly has ensured the ballad's survival into the 21st century. Like most folk songs, there is no definitive version. -from http://www.alsirat.com/deathlore/worms.html
This is the version I remember learning as a child, or at least, all I remember of it:
Did you ever think when a hearse goes by
that you might be the next to die?
They wrap you up in a dirty sheet
and bury you down about six feet deep.
The worms crawl in and the worms crawl out
the worms play pinochle in your snout.
This song has been a vivid reminder of the reality of death to many generations of children. A gooey, creepy picture of death to be sure, but certainly one that a child can relate to and find interesting. The hearse is indeed a reminder to us all that we may be the next to die. As the person driving the hearse, I feel the discomfort of many who look upon, and try not to look upon the scene. Sometimes a friend is driving in the opposite direction and tries to figure out in an instant if it's alright to wave to me or not. Sometimes the postman will stop and take off his cap. Certainly everyone notices the hearse, and although most pretend not to notice, I bet quite a few picture the worms playing cards.
The hearse doesn't roll through town as often as it used to. More and more of us are choosing services that deal less and less with the reality of death, and more with the life that was lived. It is a good thing that we celebrate life, but I think that communities of humans need that reminder that one of them has died, and remember to celebrate life while it's here, because one of us will certainly be next.