Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Memorial

It was cloudy and cold, but the rain held off. All the preparations and rehearsals completed. Flowers delivered; keyboard set-up. As people entered, Don played piano. It was a large, but unusually cozy room. The front was a stage with a podium to the right with a large bouquet of colorful flowers. Centerstage was a large screen with ferns on either side and the keyboard and microphones on the left. The back wall of the room was glass overlooking the Japanese garden. In the back of the room, several cocktail tables set up for after the memorial.

Uncle Harry spoke first. (Link to remarks will be added soon.) He is mom's maternal uncle. He started off with a joke. It was an absolutely perfect way to set the tone of the day. At the end of his eulogy, he told a story of my grandfather. My grandfather used to own a tire shop and Uncle Harry worked there with him. He said that after my grandfather died and they were closing the shop, he was cleaning out the desk and found a bible. He remembered my grandfather pulling out the bible from time to time through the years and reading it. Nearly in tatters and held together by masking tape, Uncle Harry noticed that my mom's name was inside. He held onto the bible. And at the memorial, he had his son, my cousin Mark, present it to me. A very special and unexpected moment.

Next, Don -who came all the way from California- played a medley of some of Mom's favorite songs. Songs included tunes from Jimmy Buffett, Carly Simon, James Taylor and Billy Joel. Both upbeat and slower tunes were included. I'm sure Mom would have been singing along.

Ann Sheffield, self-described as "Carolyn's O
ldest First Cousin," got up to speak. (Click here to read remarks.) Most were memories from early in Mom's life. Ann definitely illustrated what a spirited, funny kid Mom was.

Then Sandra Wheeler (or
Sandolly as I call her) spoke next. (Click here to read remarks.) She is Mom's longest (I dare not say "oldest") friend. They were best friends for over 52 years! Her comments were just amazing and I really have no idea how she got through them without going to pieces. I know I didn't. I was just fine until she got to the part about me.

Then Ava (a.k.a. Bebe, one of the Diva Losers) sang a beautiful song "See My Face" while being accompanied by Don. (Click to listen.) It was incredible and everyone is still talking about it.

Aunt Nell was the next person to give her recollections. (Click here to read remarks.) Memories from her spanned mom's life. And she has a way with words. She managed to talk about Mom, my grandparents, Gary, and even Ripley!

Next came something I put together called "Remembering Carolyn - A Photographic Journey." Before I returned to work, I'd started going through all of Mom's photos. I wanted to put together a retrospective of her life. I picked only the good pictures which numbered into the hundreds!! With the help of friends and family I was able to shave the pile down. The presentation is still about 10 minutes long, but
if you don't connect with any other link in this post, you'll certainly want to see this. It truly shows what a vibrant, fun, and complex person she was. From her love of 'dressing up', to her days as a hunter, to the time she made an arrested landing on an aircraft carrier; she honestly had a remarkable life. (Click here and be sure your volume is 'on.')

Appropriately so, Don followed the photos with t
he playing of "Margaritaville" by Jimmy Buffett. The audience joined in the sing-a-long and before it was said and done, the four Diva Losers were on stage singing right along. I'm sure Mom was right there in her mardi gras beads singing word.

I then gave a few remarks. (Click here to read remarks.) I honestly don't remember much about it. I tend to have on-stage amnesia and usually get through things okay, but never have much of a recollection about it afterwards.

The 'show' was concluded when Don and the Diva's all performed a lovely a capella piece called "The Lord Bless You and Keep You."
The four part harmony was beautiful and the sentiment was perfect. When I was in the choir in high school, Mom was a major supporter and fund-raiser. We ended every concert with this piece and she absolutely loved it. I thought it would be perfect to end the memorial with it too.

Everyone then enjoyed the fabulous spread of fruits, cheeses, and desserts. Oh, and I can't forget the wonderful cheese straws... Mom's favorite. I can't even begin to describe all of the wonderful goodies, but we also had key lime pie tarts. A special request since Mom was famous for her key lime pie. The tarts were
pretty good, but Mom's pie is still hands down winner.

Friends and family who hadn't seen each other in so many years were able to catch up and reminisce. It was just the party Mom would have wanted. The day slowly wound down and people trickled out here and there.

Isn't is strange how a social custom like this can bring closure. As long as I live, I will have a hole in my heart that has been left by mom's
absence in this world, but since the memorial I feel a joy; a peace in my soul that can't be described. Maybe I needed to celebrate her life with others who loved and appreciated her. The memory of hearing all of the stories of her will be with me always.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Stephanie,
This is just so very special for me to be able to sit here at my computer and experience (to quite some degree) Carolyn's Memorial. What an incredible daughter you are. We should all hope for half as beautiful a ceremony. I feel so honored to be able to share this with you and all of your loved ones. I am so sad I missed it (with my hospitalization) but am overjoyed to be able to see the fabulous slideshow, read the heartfelt remarks and listen to Bebe's soul-moving song--wow, what talent. You (continue to) never cease to AMAZE me with your story telling/blogging abilities.
Much Love & Many Blessings to you & Gar
Amanda Shannon