Monthly Archives: May 2015

“There you are, Mama.”

hands 3My mother died on April 2.  To gather all the grandchildren for her funeral, we held it a month later on May 2. Having ample time, versus our family’s tradition of three days, to plan a service honoring this incredible woman was interesting to say the least. Between my brother and sister and me, we could discuss and consider and reconsider everything, from the most minute to what was absolutely paramount in remembering our mom.

First, she was cremated and we are traditional casket people.  That in itself was an oddity. It had never occurred to us where she would be in the time between her death and the funeral.  That had always been a given.  The funeral home.

Then we had hundreds of pictures to choose between for the obituary–young, old, in-between, mom-like, Grammy-like, casual, dressy, smiling, demure. Even a few femme fatale that my brother was more in favor of.

Luckily we had a list of hymns and scriptures my mom had picked years ago when dying was not even vaguely on her radar.  A list we had compiled one snowy evening by the fire after a much older friend of hers had died. This I highly recommend for those of you who have not had to plan a parent’s funeral. Knowing her preferences not only made the service selections easier but a purer reflection of her.

The extra time and preoccupation with decision making and logistics, would make one think we had grieved a bit and were better prepared to handle the actual day with grace and dignity. As probably most 60 to 70 year-old children would when saying goodbye to their 91-year-old mother.

But oh no, not us.

We had days to prepare an altar (thanks pretty much completely to my sister) that was sort of a “shadow box” of everything our mother–a pile of her well-worn bird books tied sweetly in slim checked ribbon, pictures of her at 20 something and 80 something, an actual window box filled with her favorite fresh flowers, a nosegay of tiny pink roses, her antique quilt that was across her lap when she died.

Hearing her favorite scriptures, her beloved Methodist hymns we all remembered her sitting at the piano to play, seeing our children stand proudly and speak affectionately of the grandmother and role model they loved. Listening to and seeing all of this surrounding her urn, which was actually a walnut box, made mother come to life rather than seem gone.

And that turned at least me and my brother (my sister not only spoke eloquently but sat with a better measure of elegance and composure) into front row wailers who are actually paid to do so in many traditions. A generation ago they were frequently heard in Ireland. Wailers are common in African tribal ceremonies. They also followed the Greek and Romans to their tombs, crying and beating their breasts for suitable remuneration.

Well, we had no such need as our mother’s love reached so far and wide there were many mourners and we provided the tears. Honest, open and flowing as only a child can. From a place deep in our hearts that only a mother can touch.

The grandchildren, in their 20’s to early 40’s, were pall bearers of sorts, carrying the urn instead of the casket and even lowering it into the gravesite. As a final farewell, spontaneously following a more Jewish tradition, we placed flowers around her box and one by one, we shoveled the dirt to bury her.

It was a perfect day reflecting the life and love of an incredibly special, unique and treasured mother, wife, daughter, sister, grandmother, friend.  She was buried beside my father, her husband of 64 years, who died eleven years ago.

As we walked away from the gravesite, the bagpiper playing The Mist Covered Mountains on a hilltop above the Kanawha Valley in West Virginia, I saw and heard this. And I know I did.

My dad reached out and took mom’s hand between the two of them where they lay. And I heard him say, “Well, there you are, Mama.”

And there they are.