Group Writing: Music To Bury My Mother By

 

June 24, 2020 would have been my mother’s 92nd birthday. She died in September 2014, at the age of 86 after a long struggle with the effects of fronto-temporal dementia. Her death was, in the eyes of her children and others who loved her, a release and a blessing. And for her, peace at last.

She’d fallen away from the faith of her childhood decades before, and her children wished only a celebration of her life, and to say farewell to Mum with words and music that she’d have enjoyed. (I’ve often thought that, in an earlier time, Mum might have lived as a wise woman, or a white witch, in a pretty little cottage in the middle of the forest primeval. She’d have liked that, I think.)

Her interment was my first experience with a “green” funeral. She was buried in a biodegradable coffin painted with the wild birds of England that she so loved, in a lovely and peaceful place (an experience which felt so “right” that it inspired my stepson’s green burial a few years later.)

I couldn’t be there. But I Skyped myself in for the audio, so I could hear it. Because my Internet connection is suboptimal, and I wasn’t sure how it would work, I asked my cousin Sarah to read the piece I’d written for Mum.

Front and center of the service was music my mother loved (click to embiggen):

Here’s Mum’s playlist:

Oh. She loved this so much. If this doesn’t make you smile, I’m not sure I want to know you.

Kenny Ball was a perennial favorite. A toss-up between this and “Midnight in Moscow.” If I am not mistaken, MIM was, for a time, the theme song for the USSR shortwave radio, as Lillibulero was for the BBC World Service (perhaps even the Russians had, at one time, more of a sense of humor than they exhibit today).

Nat King Cole. The day he died from lung cancer, my mother announced she was giving up smoking forever. And she did.

And. for the 15 years you spent living in Pittsburgh, Mum, with your suitcase packed ready to go “home” to the UK at any minute, Guy Mitchell:

Tsai Chin and “School In Cheltenham,” one of the more respectable songs by one of Mum’s favorites, Paddy Roberts. Mum attended The Abbey School in Malvern Wells (as did I, many years later), which was viewed as rather inferior to Cheltenham Ladies College, which was just down the road. I think this song pleased Mum and made her laugh because she saw it as a bit of payback.

Dickie Feller? Perhaps an acquired taste. But you loved him. Music to make Mr. She’s teeth itch.

Annie Murray and “Snowbird.” Memories of happy times, and summers in Prince Edward Island. So special for me, too.

And, Mr. Acker Bilk.

I share these selections with you in the spirit of affection and fun that we had as we gathered together to celebrate Mum’s life and to say goodbye. A grand time was had by all. I’m sure Mum enjoyed it too.

Published in Group Writing
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  1. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    What a beautiful tribute to your Mum. She would have loved it. Both my parents insisted that we have no funerals or memorials for them. They said they didn’t know who they’d have us invite. I think they were afraid no one would show up, but us three kids. They may have been right. They were lonely people.

    • #1
  2. KentForrester Moderator
    KentForrester
    @KentForrester

    Nice selection of music, Mrs. She.  I listened to them all.  I only recognized four of them.  I guess the others were strictly British.  The gem, for me at least, is Satchmo’s Wonderful World.  Marie was listening and she recognized the song, from across the room, after only the first three notes.

    Touching memory of your mum. Would we all had such a daughter.

    That is your mom in the bathing suit, isn’t it?  Taken in the 20s?

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  3. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    KentForrester (View Comment):
    Nice selection of music, Mrs. She. I listened to them all. I only recognized four of them. I guess the others were strictly British. The gem, for me at least, is Satchmo’s Wonderful World. Marie was listening and she recognized the song, from across the room, after only the first three notes.

    Touching memory of your mum. Would we all had such a daughter.

    Thank you.  There are probably times she’d have agreed with you, and then . . .

    That is your mom in the bathing suit, isn’t it?

    Yes.  I expect it was in Cornwall, where she and her brother and my grandparents spent most of their summer holiday time.

     

    • #3
  4. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    She: Dickie Feller? Perhaps an acquired taste. But you loved him. Music to make Mr. She’s teeth itch.

    John Denver made a bit of a comeback with that song. As for Dick Feller, who wrote the song and many others, uh…

    Deena Kaye Rose is an American country musician and songwriter. As an activist, she has given performances and lectures on her experiences as a transgender woman. She has recorded music under the name Dick Feller.

    Well, okay then…Sort of changes the whole song in some ways.

    • #4
  5. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Arahant (View Comment):

    She: Dickie Feller? Perhaps an acquired taste. But you loved him. Music to make Mr. She’s teeth itch.

    John Denver made a bit of a comeback with that song. As for Dick Feller, who wrote the song and many others, uh…

    Deena Kaye Rose is an American country musician and songwriter. As an activist, she has given performances and lectures on her experiences as a transgender woman. She has recorded music under the name Dick Feller.

    Well, okay then…

    Oh, holy cow.  Good thing Mum has “transitioned,” herself.  I can only imagine what she’d have to say about that. (It would be bloody funny, I know that.)

    • #5
  6. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    She (View Comment):
    Oh, holy cow. Good thing Mum has “transitioned,” herself. I can only imagine what she’d have to say about that. (It would be bloody funny, I know that.)

    The face that I see in the mirror
    More and more is a stranger to me.
    More and more I’m aware that there’s a danger
    In becoming what I never thought I’d be.

    Okey-dokey then. That didn’t turn out to mean what I thought it meant.

    • #6
  7. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    I’ve often wondered if everyone could have a life that could be, if not exactly summarized, but at least represented in song – some sort of way of saying “if you want to know what this person was really like, or how they thought, then you need to listen to these pieces” – with the hope, of course, that such tracks were ones that said person would also happen to enjoy and approve.  This is quite lovely.

    • #7
  8. Goldwaterwoman Thatcher
    Goldwaterwoman
    @goldwaterwoman

    My mother died 24 years ago at the age of 74 of an illness called scleroderma. I still miss her every single day of my life and, for some strange reason, talk to her while I’m in the shower. I don’t know about men, but I do know most women have a very close relationship with their mothers that can be replaced by no one. Your post brings me back to the songs my mother loved, most of which were country ballads. She also loved Elvis Presley and left behind cassettes of every song he recorded. 

    • #8
  9. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    This lovely remembrance in music is part of our June theme: “Music that makes me . . . .” We have three or four open days available for your own song list or musical memories.

    Interested in Group Writing topics that came before? See the handy compendium of monthly themes. Check out links in the Group Writing Group. You can also join the group to get a notification when a new monthly theme is posted.

    • #9
  10. Cow Girl Thatcher
    Cow Girl
    @CowGirl

    Wow, my dad died 36 years ago, and it still brings a twinge to my heart when I hear music he loved. Isn’t it funny how powerful music is? When I hear songs that conjure up a childhood memory, or good times from my marriage and motherhood, I’m always grateful that I had those experiences. I feel like I’m losing some of my memory of current events, but a song or a melody will always clearly remind me of something in the past. It’s so precious.

    • #10
  11. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    My mother was also very fond of Acker Bilk’s “Stranger on the Shore”. We bought a stereo in large part so she could hear that record. 

    Most of us didn’t know that Acker Bilk and Kenny Ball were British. As an old Radio Moscow listener, the signature song did indeed sound like Louis Armstrong’s version but was their own jazzy arrangement. 

    • #11
  12. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    My mother was also very fond of Acker Bilk’s “Stranger on the Shore”. We bought a stereo in large part so she could hear that record.

    Your mother had excellent taste in music.

    Most of us didn’t know that Acker Bilk and Kenny Ball were British. As an old Radio Moscow listener, the signature song did indeed sound like Louis Armstrong’s version but was their own jazzy arrangement.

    Thanks for confirming that for me!  

    • #12
  13. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Cow Girl (View Comment):

    Wow, my dad died 36 years ago, and it still brings a twinge to my heart when I hear music he loved. Isn’t it funny how powerful music is? When I hear songs that conjure up a childhood memory, or good times from my marriage and motherhood, I’m always grateful that I had those experiences. I feel like I’m losing some of my memory of current events, but a song or a melody will always clearly remind me of something in the past. It’s so precious.

    Absolutely.

    Several years ago, I read Where Memories Go: Why Dementia Changes Everything, by Sally Magnussen.  It’s the story loving daughter’s journey with her mother, through that mother’s dementia, and it’s a wonderful book.  While reading it, I discovered that music is indeed one of the most powerful “memory enhancers,” and that there are charities in the UK and US which collect old MP3 players, or devices with the capability to store and play music, and then give them out to dementia homes for the patients, with their personalized “playlist” on board.  (No idea what they’re doing in the age of Covid-19).  Dementia sufferers who can remember almost nothing of their lives will light up at a favorite piece of music, and sometimes sing along.

    I wrote a post about one such story here a few months ago, when Margaret Mackie, an 83-year old Scottish lady who suffers from dementia, climbed the UK pop charts singing a duet of My Way with her caregiver.  Here’s the video that went with the post:

     

     

    • #13