I have played at many funerals. Mostly for strangers, though some for people close to me.
The first funeral I played at was also the first funeral I attended. It was for a friend of mine, a young piper, who was killed in a car accident.
The night before I remember fumbling with my pipes, thinking this whole mind boggling topic over, when my dad came down into the basement (where he and I were relegated to practice, so as never to disturb the neighbors… a bit of baggage I still carry today). He wanted to have a chat. Nobody likes “chats” with their parents in their early teen years, especially over topics as heavy as death. He said “We’re not playing our pipes tomorrow to make a sad thing more sad, and we’re not playing to make a sad thing happy. We’re playing to make a sad thing beautiful”.
Pipers often forget that playing one little tune is so much more than a little tune for a grieving family and friends. For a brief moment the pipe floods the room with sound, and that sound touches everybody, like the presence of the person who these people will so desperately miss. It really is quite beautiful.