Monday, April 10, 2006


It's okay. I can get though this. After a loved one dies, there are the milestones--holidays, birthdays, specail days of all kinds--when you realize it's the first time you've celebrated without them. And this time it's the guest of honor herself who's missing--Mom would be seventy-eight today, and she's not here to enjoy it.

I don't want to dwell on how her absence weighs on me. So I'll try to give you a sense of her as a person, and why she is missed.

Mom had cancer, apparently inoperable, which was discovered last summer. Despite this, she remained in good health and good spirits until about a week before she died. However, mortality was weighing heavily on her, and the subject tended to rear its head when least expected. One time we were talking about music and I mentioned a particular piece I thought should be played at my funeral.

"You've thought about that?" she asked.

"Well...yeah." I hesitated, but went ahead and asked. "Anything you want at your funeral?"

"No. Well. I think you already know."

Did I ever.

After her death, when we, her children, were making arrangements with the funeral home, they politely asked us if there was any particualar music she might want, or did we want them to pick something. We'll handle that, we agreed.

There was music to be played at the memorial service, but that wasn't enough. Mom loved music, it was one of the joys of her life. Her wide-ranging and rather eccentric tastes were one of the things the defined her, that we all thought of when we thought of her. So music during the service itself wouldn't be enough. A soundtrack was needed, continuous music during the visitation the day before the service, and during the family time after, music that would define everything Mom was.

Picking that music was mostly up to me. My sister wanted some spirituals, since it was a funeral after all, and made a recording of herself singing In The Garden, and we agreed to Johnny Cash's version of Peace In The Valley, but I thought too much religious music would be inappropriate, since Mom pretty much considered herself an agnostic.

Beyond that, trying to narrow down the choices was a daunting task. We needed some Roger Miller and Marty Robbins, but also some Rob Zombie. Green Day's Boulevard of Broken Dreams was essential--Mom once yelled at a clerk at a local discount store because they didn't have a copy of American Idiot, an image I'll treasure all my life--and certainly we needed Iron Butterfly. Something from Jesus Christ Superstar, a show she loved (for reasons I've never understood). Maybe some Spike Jones? Nah, even I thought that would be too weird for a funeral.

But the song that most had to be there was the Muppet favorite Bein' Green. She could hear this song a million times, in a million different versions, and it would always make her cry. My ex-wife, Sue Ellen, had promised Mom in happier times that she would sing it at the funeral. In a way, she did. I had a cassette of her singing it, and with her blessing, we used it. This may seem like a cheap, sentimental way to end this, but no finer words could ever describe Mom:

Green is the color of spring
And green can be cool and friendly-like
And green can be big like an ocean
Or important like a mountain
Or tall like a tree

When green is all there is to be
It could make you wonder why
But why wonder, why wonder?
I'm green, and it'll do fine
It's beautiful and I think it's what I want to be

Happy birthday, Mom.