I wrote this piece to audition for the Listen To Your Mother event in Minneapolis. I was not cast in the show (and I may try again next year) but in honor of my mom on Mother’s Day. Here it is:
So-my dad died 15 years ago. My brother and I gave the eulogy. I was like the unknown indie band opening act and he was the big headliner you paid big money for. We got very good reviews and then tag teamed at our Grandma’s funeral 18 months later. And because I’m probably a really bad person, because of 15 years ago…ever since my dad died…and I stood up there in my stupid, rayon Ann Taylor dress…I’ve been thinking about my mother’s funeral. Note: My mother is very much alive and well and for that I am grateful. (below in France…yes we have matching scarves)
I know. That sounds terrible. But you can’t have a parent die and not ponder/stress/panic/fear/plan for the other one if you are fortunate enough to have the other one. I think it’s natural. Maybe? Or maybe I am a crazy person and this is my darkest side. I mean, I haven’t created a funeral vision board or anything. Yet.
So, my mom is a fancy person. Like fancy. Put together. Chic. She looked good when we went camping. Her bandana matched her Dr. Scholl’s sandals. Also, she was wearing Dr. Scholl’s went we went camping. Who does that? She has an ample collection of coats. She has a coat for particular types of snow. I’m not kidding. If you need a sharp looking coat for a dry dusting of snow, it’s in her closet. There might be two in that category. When she was wheeled into heart surgery seven years ago at Mayo Clinic, the medical staff commented on her beautiful nails. Her nails were perfect-for surgery.
So I’m picturing a show stopping church service. Something in a traditional space. Beautiful. Stained glass windows. Strong architectural elements. Warm wood tone pews. The flowers. Stunners. But unexpected. Maybe orchids. Maybe trailing. Maybe fushcia. My mom delights in the smallest of details. She finds joy in tiny slivers of beauty.
I will wear something that would do her proud. Appropriate but not dour. Maybe navy. Tailored to fit. My mother’s most important fashion advice is that fit is everything. Maybe a Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress. With a wedge heel. My mother likes the classics. Honestly, I’m a little stressed about the outfit because she won’t be there to help me with shoe choice. She knows these things and I don’t know these things.
She has already weighed in on a few things that are important regarding her funeral. My mother and I have been to way too many funerals. Man, we have been on the funeral circuit lately. Once, many years ago we were at a funeral for an elderly relative and it was an open casket. The woman had a very stark white root line and wore an ill-fitting pale mauve suit. My mother peered over the casket and gave me a knowing look and said, “Just so you know…” She raises her eyebrows. I know. “I got you. No weird suit. No weird colors. Not one gray hair. I won’t let you down.” She has since decided on cremation. Maybe she does not trust me. For what do I know of funeral fashion.
And my mom really wants Debussy’s piece Clair de Lune played at her funeral. She has mentioned it numerous times. She loves that piece of music. If you can’t think of it offhand, it’s at the end of the movie Ocean’s 11. Final scene where they reflect on what they have done. It goes, “da da, da da da….” So, I’ve been thinking…I should totally play that on the piano at her funeral. Like…that would be a such a tribute. That I learned that specific piece to honor her and could play it perfectly, wearing my tasteful navy dress, orchids on the baby grand. Did I mention the baby grand? She would be so pleased. She really would love it.
One-she won’t be there to witness how amazing it would be. She won’t see it and be proud and tell me how extraordinary her funeral was. She will not know that I have executed the BEST and most SPECIAL parental funeral EVER. There will be no Instagram post from her of her funeral. (to quote one of my daughter’s friends-‘Bruh, your GRANDMA has an Instagram?”)
Second issue is…am I really going to be in the right state of mind to PERFORM at my mother’s funeral? I’m going to be orphaned. An old orphan, but an orphan nonetheless. I have spent some time thinking about the orphan thing. I do not like it. It nauseates me. And the other problem—is the big problem. A really big problem.
I do not play the piano.
At all. Not one note.
And that begs the question…where do I even come up with these harebrained ideas? Why in the hell would I even think I could learn Clair de Lune on the piano in 3 days time while grieving the loss of my sweet mom and then perform it perfectly at her funeral? I’m going to be in the damn fetal position.
I need to own my crazy ideas. My unrealistic plans. Yet…
I think it’s possible. And some may call it instinct. Or personality. Or God. Or self-confidence. But in my case, it’s because of her. My mother. This is HER doing. The little voice in my head that tells me that I could do it, I can handle it, I can face it, I can master it, I can find it, I can survive it, I can make it, I can work through it, I can and I will.
All her. She started it. It’s her voice until it becomes my voice.
She has painstakingly paved a foundation of gritty determination in me. And oh, how I have needed it. It has been her greatest gift to me. She has absolute unwavering, unshakeable, unfathomable conviction in her children. It makes no logical sense. We have failed her. We have screwed up. We have made mistakes. We have been dumb. We have pushed back so hard we could knock her down. We have given her every indication that we probably can’t do it. We are people who should not do certain things.
This woman, my mother. She does not buy it. She believes in me so fervently that I believe.
And this, in my opinion, is the purest distillation of motherhood. To be the person who hopes and prays and dreams and fights and believes so sincerely against all the odds-that you raise an adult who can withstand every storm internal or external.
Personally, I love Bach’s Suite for Solo Cello No.1 in G Major. I really need to let my kids know. Man, that is going to be a son of a bitch to learn. Because none of my kids play the cello. But I bet they could. My God, they would be brilliant at it.