It was a celebration of Mom’s life - which is exactly what she wanted and what she planned.
I always knew my parents had a very strong faith, but it was never so evident as in the days leading up to Mom’s passing. Mom had no fear of dying. We all understood she was ill. It was just a shock to learn she had less time with us than we all hoped. Facing her fate and with incredible inner strength, Mom gave direction on just how we would conduct her funeral service, what hymns and songs to sing, what Bible passages to read, poems she wished to share and just who would read what and why....As someone said with a chuckle, June gets the last say.
As she had quiet time with each of her 4 grandchildren, she helped her two granddaughters chose the clothes they would wear for this celebration. There was to be no black and she would have been thrilled to know the funeral directors even wore grey with brightly colored ties in her honor. My sister and I and our daughters wore some of Mom’s many hats to the visitation and service and with the whole family decked out in brightly colored outfits, we had to explain we were not in costume and that these were our clothes from our own closets! Obviously we are direct relations of our Mom, our June who always dressed beautifully and loved her Le Chateau flowered shoes!
My husband and I put together a photo montage that played on large screens at the front of the church, a beautiful historic property of warm wood and high ceilings. Mom had always been full of fun and laughter and at Dad’s request, we shared this side of her with our family and friends who joined us that day. Mom had arranged for old friends to sing during communion though the first strains of Louis Armstrong’s “It’s a Wonderful World” was the undoing of us all. When Dad piped in with the last , “oh, yeah.....”, our balance was restored.
We were her pall bearers. We passed Mom’s urn from hand to hand down that long church aisle with Dad carrying her the last steps out the door. We stopped to sing “Soft Kitty” before we left and then gathered on the walkway for what we call “the wave”. Years ago Mom instigated this rather obvious way to say goodbye to any family member heading out. She had us all gather together in the yard and each of us waved in whatever style we happened to like at that moment. No doubt neighbours thought we were crazy, but sometimes traditions are just that and this one always made us smile, no matter how sad we were at parting. It had the same effect that day.
Kevin carried Mom to the church hall where we had an “un-birthday” party for Mom. She had requested a banner, there was an un-birthday cake and we sang the Happy Un-birthday song to her. Fellow members of Mom’s Alongsiders group had organized food and Dad’s sound system played some favorite Bajan tunes as well as songs from Mama Mia, one of the movies Mom enjoyed so much. My daughter later told me her grandfather was demonstrating how to dance Bajan style around the tables of food.
We were fortunate that one of Mom’s dearest friends is a Deacon at our church. Madonna spent the week organizing this service and reception just the way Mom wanted it and we are so grateful she gave us this wonderful gift, this celebration of Mom’s life. She greeted us at the door of the church in a lovely red dress and sparkly sandals, sporting a gorgeous feathery fascinator and multi colored nails. After she dawned her robes, she wore a quilted stole that Mom and I had made for her years before. She conducted the service with the aid of another family friend, a retired Anglican priest who had preformed my marriage ceremony some 27 years previous, one of his first with this congregation. Hugging us, he told us he was honored to preform this last service for our Mom.
Our funeral director was Kevin. And he and Mom had a history as well. The morning Mom passed, Dad called Kevin and the conversation went like this....”First, I want to congratulate you on your recent acquisition of the Funeral Home (the purchase had just been made public the previous week) and, Kevin, my wife, June has just passed away.” Dad said Kevin was quiet for a moment, thanked Dad and then extended his condolences. He remarked softly to Dad, “25 years ago June wrote me a lovely letter when I entered this business. I never forgot her thoughtfulness.”
That was my Mom.
As we have been cleaning and sorting, there is so much more evidence of Mom’s graciousness and kindness. We keep uncovering notes and letters tucked here and there all saying similar things; thanks for thinking of me, thanks for caring, thanks for your help, your prayers, for being you.
Thank you, Mom. We love you like no other.
Our loss is immeasurable, our grief immense.
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Friday, October 5, 2012
I have always been drawn to the ocean, as have most members of my family. We seem to have a strong link to our ancestors who either owed their lives to the sea, or travelled over it to settle in a land new to them. I get much comfort from the rhythm of the waves, the continuity of the tides, the apparent simplicity of a complex force of nature.
Wherever I travel, I seek out water.
This is the Atlantic Ocean on the southeast side of Iceland. The beach is black lava sand, the water temperature is less than 9 degrees and the ice has broken off the glaciers of Jokulsarlon - the famous glacier river lagoon. This ice would be approximately 1000 years old. Incredible indeed. And oddly comforting.
Thursday, October 4, 2012
My sister and I have often remarked that we were well into our twenties before we ever heard the word “dysfunctional” paired with "family” and even then, someone had to explain what it meant.
We were supported by a family run business that kept our dad busy 24/7 and where our mom worked many years without receiving pay because you couldn’t pay your wife back in the day. Butter and ice cream were eaten at Christmas as very special treats and I know there were many, many times Mom stretched the few dollars they had left because staff got paid first. And yet our house was always full of close relatives - some who lived with us for extended periods of time, close friends who needed a place to stay for awhile and weekends were full of kids from the local orphanage sleeping over. Several of my Dad’s nephews lived with us for a year while they played hockey in our local league. Tony, a young adult at the time, lived with us for many years when his own family was unavailable to provide a home for him. The adventures of Tony deserve an entire post to themselves!! What a character!!
Our maternal grandmother lived with us for many years and when I was young I would rush home from school to watch “Another World” with Gram while we painted a Christmas tablecloth with Artex paints for my Mom as a surprise Christmas gift. When Gram was well enough to be in the kitchen, I used to pester her to make her fish cakes and lemon meringue pie....oh my....it didn’t get better than that!
Sundays saw Mom’s sisters and their families at our house for the afternoon which culminated in rowdy dinners. Over the years numerous card games were played at the same round table that always managed to squeeze one more person in for a meal. My best girlfriend spent weeks of her summer with us at our summer cottage where we amused ourselves performing episodes of Bonanza and recording ridiculous renditions of “Strangers in the Night” on my dad’s reel to reel recorder. Our friends were always made to feel welcome.
When we visited my father’s parents home, the round dining table there was generally always filled with my grandmother’s sisters and an assortment of brothers-in-law, cousins, and uncles who...all...talked...at...once....It was incredible to listen as multiple conversations were carried on, words criss crossing the table like rapid fire gunshots. And everyone followed along, interjecting comments while maintaining the flow of the conversation they were having with another one, or two, or more people. What an art! First time visitors never knew what to think and few could keep up....lol
We always assumed all families were the same. This is what we knew. It was our reality. It never occurred to us that not all families lived this way, or communicated this way. But perhaps if more people were brought up like this, with an open door, open communication, open hearts and strong family ties, more people would have less opportunity to fall into that chasm called dysfunctional.