My Mom’s memorial service—not what you’d expect to be one of the funniest times of our lives, but whenever we think of it, we laugh and high-five each other. And that’s just the way she would have wanted it.
Before she died, my Mom expressed her wish to go without a traditional funeral; instead, she wanted a wake, an informal gathering where friends and family could get together and share stories, laugh, and remember her famous sense of humor.
Still, she never could have imagined what her granddaughter Addi and I, her daughter, had planned.
Don’t get me wrong; we were grieving our matriarch, and we had to attend to all of the arrangements. My Dad, who was suddenly lost without his beloved wife of 63 years, tranced through photo albums and other memories to help us create a wonderful visual tribute to ‘our’ Mom.
We greeted guests at the memorial with somber smiles and wistful laughs. My parents’ friends, our large extended families, my Mom’s seniors’ choir members, workmates, and family friends joined us. The room was chock-full with folks from ages 14 to 95—and my poor Dad was holding up as best as he could.
Dad had decided earlier that he was unable to speak; he had left me to sort out the usual eulogy, and my older (rather serious and introverted) brother and I would speak on the family’s behalf.
Once everyone had gathered, we hushed the crowd and I thanked everyone for attending. I introduced our family members and invited my brother to speak. His words were thoughtful, full of fond reminiscing and gratefulness. Our guests nodded at the memories of events, emotions, and a life well lived. A fitting tribute indeed.
Then it was my turn to take the mic. Despite my mournful state, I knew we had one opportunity to commemorate the woman who made us all laugh, the Mom who was famous for pratfalls, singing, and comedic timing.
I read a few words from a script I’d written; somehow, I felt emboldened by the spirit of my Mom, smiling down on us. I called upon my niece, Addi, to join me. We were taking a risk, and we figured that some of our guests might be offended or think our tribute was inappropriate.
But I continued.
“Everyone who knew my Mom knew she loved to sing,” I spoke. “Some of her favorite times were spent performing with her beloved Parkview Singers, and she looked forward to music competitions and Christmas concerts.
“My Mom sang everything, from TV jingles to novelty songs to sacred hymns. She’d make up silly songs and lyrics to entertain us when we were kids, and continued doing so for her grandkids. She could sing soprano or alto, and she’d encourage my Dad to sing along with her. But the only place he could hold a tune was in his heart.
“So for those of you who are melody-challenged, we’ve chosen a song that we can all sing in memory of my dear Mom. If you don’t know the tune, we’re sure you can remember the words.
“Addi, are you ready?” I looked at my niece as she smiled and nodded.
“OK, everyone, please join us…” I cleared my throat. You could hear a pin drop. Silence.
“Beans, beans, the magical fruit…”
The crowd looked shocked. No smiles, no laughs. No singing. A snicker or two.
“…the more you eat, the more you toot…”
A few guests joined in, then more. Uneasy smiles, glances at one another. Glimmers of recognition.
“…the more you toot, the better you feel…”
Suddenly everyone was joining in. The room exploded in sound. Smiles, laughter, shouting now.
“…so eat your beans at every meal!”
The room went crazy in uproar. Cheering, clapping, raucous laughter. Even those who had initially been hesitant cheered and clapped.
Addi and I looked at one another. We hadn’t expected such an enthusiastic response. Our friends and family—doctors, business owners, teachers, churchgoers—serious and upstanding, or not so serious—everyone had taken the opportunity to be silly and cherish my Mom’s memory.
I reached out to hug Addi, and she fell apart in my arms. Sobbing, giggling, until I too, began crying with joy.
We’d done it. We brought the lively, comical spirit of our Mom and Nana to the party. Since that day, so many friends have reminded us of that moment. And every time they do, we imaginary-high-five my Mom and share a little giggle.
About the Creator
I live with a broken brain and PTSD--but that doesn't stop me! I'm an author, artist, and qualified mediator who loves life's detours.
I co-authored NOT CANCELLED: Canadian Kindness in the Face of COVID-19. I also publish horror stories.
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