Sightseers into Pilgrims, by Evangeline Paterson I used to think -- loving life so greatly -- that to die would be like leaving a party before the end. Now I know that the party is really happening somewhere else; that the light and the music -- escaping in snatches to make the pulse beat and the tempo quicken -- come from a long way away. And I know too that when I get there the music will never end.
I chose the readings for my mom’s “Celebration-of-Life” service. I chose the music, too, based on her life and her requests. Ode to Joy. On Eagle’s Wings. Daybreak by Barry Manilow
Because of Covid restrictions, though, no singing was allowed for the socially distanced, mask-wearing church attendees, but the talented organist played the music with creative emotional panache.
My mom’s presence graced us during the celebration. She approved! After her ashes were spread at the church’s beautiful Memorial Garden, all of the family drove to her favorite place – the NJ seashore – and celebrated her joie d vivre for a week. Sand Sun Surf. Tears Laughter Love.
Seven days later I rode the 7-hour drive back home with my daughter and her kids in their SUV. My daughter played my kind of music – Beatles and soft rock – to keep us company on the ride. Suddenly, the beautiful Paul McCartney song – “Yesterday“ – filled the sand-scented car. I felt a small tear escape, but overall, I just experienced grace and gratitude.
I looked over at my daughter’s expression, though, as she drove and hummed to the song. “What are you thinking?” I asked her, curious.
She smiled meekly and replied, “I’ll play this song for you at your memorial service.”
I barked out a laugh and then replied, “Absolutely not! ‘Yesterday’ is about regrets. I have no regrets. (And I thought, I have several more decades to live, thank you very much.)
“Oh, okay,” she said, surprised.
“ ‘In My Life’ by the Beatles would be perfect,” I added. “That song says it all.”
We smiled as we sped down the highway toward home.