May 21, Mama passed away. She led a long, rich, full life, and always wanted a true celebration at the end. For her service, she wanted each grandchild and great-grand, to have a flower in their hand, so you bought each child a creamy rose to hold in her honor. She wanted champagne toasts afterwards. After fussing with your sisters about everything from hymns to ham biscuits–you all shared joyful clinks of champagne after the service. (Mama also wanted the New Orleans Preservation Hall Jazz Band to play, but that we couldn’t manage).
You five spirited children tussled just like old times. But you did it. You and your sisters and brothers hugged, bonded together and laid the last parent to rest. Something you could not have imagined fifty, forty, thirty, twenty years ago–much less a decade ago.
As the minister summed up in her homily–composed of random recollections from you all–your Mother embraced everything from yogurt, to yoga, to Carl Jung--back in the early 1970’s, way before it was considered ‘cool.’ Mama was open to concepts and beliefs (although still closed to all that was ‘tacky’) and counselled everyone you knew–your aunts and cousins and willing friends, and just about anyone who stopped by the house.
At your age, 55–she began mapping out a second career and finished her college degree in New York City. She then got her Masters in Social Work, specializing in Gerontology. She practiced psychotherapy in New York, and again back south after your father retired. Meanwhile, Mama kept hosting her signature parties for her family and friends. “Labor of love,” she always said with a smile, without a sigh of martyrdom.
Gradually, Mama turned into a powerful matriarch before your very eyes. This is what family does for each other. Families are there for one another. Families go out of their way for one another. Change your flight and stay later, come earlier. Always, always– do whatever it takes, to be together as a family as long as possible.
Then at age 80, Parkinson’s slowly set in and she was just not herself. She missed your father, who died suddenly from a heart attack at age 72. They were soul mates. She was the love of his life, and he was hers. They were married for fifty years.
“Canada geese mate for life,” they used to say, arm-in-arm, watching the geese fly overhead and then settle in their yard.
Here’s to you, Mama. Here’s to the dance. And here’s to you and Dad.
Many, many thanks, to our friends who have given us such huge support.