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.