Thursday, January 19, 2006

memorial service

my friend sherry’s* mom, gloria, died this past weekend.

two years ago when sherry’s sister passed away of anorexia, i treated her to a pedicure, as a way to get her mind off of it even for a little while since I knew she really likes shiny lacquered nails. Sunday morning’s announcement of her last moment’s with her mom in church sat on me with the weightiness of an anchor. gloria had struggled with cancer for some time. her last words to her daughter were threaded with concern over how sherry might get home. even as sherry’s mom died, she worried and through her worry showed her love to sherry.

i knew i would do whatever she needed of me- more pedicures, pizza at Milano’s, watching Friends- some of her favorite things that might subside some of the grief and pain for a time. yet instead she asked me to sing at the memorial service and I unequivocally assented.

rewind to eight years ago: my last memorial service singing transpired at my grandmother’s memorial service. she had lived in Bolivia and I saw her only a few times in my life. my father had asked me to sing and of course I wanted to sing my best for my grandmother. my usually trained ear was not up to snuff that day, it turns out; as my friend lisa played “it is well with my soul” on her cello, she began humming. for the life of me, I couldn’t understand why, as we were in the middle of the song, she was humming. and it hit me that I was singing the wrong notes. I was so mortified that I fell back into one of my stress reactions and did my darndest not to laugh or giggle or let out a hoot, but I couldn’t believe it or my lack of control. I counted to fifteen then thirty trying to suppress the internal giggles fighting to get out- I prayed that God would help me look very emotional and I think on the whole no one else caught on- except for my 10 year old cousin michael grinning out at me from the sea of downcast faces- and a smartly etched scowl on my mom’s face, in deference for her ex-mother-in-law.

so my track record with memorial services up till now had been rather shaky. part of it is I am not a solo artist- I so much rather prefer to sing with someone else, it allows for so much more freedom and all the eyes are not directly on me. I am so at ease when there are several of us on a platform- but know the signs of “my solo artist situation”- sweaty palms, shaky knees, dry mouth, need to urinate, furtive looks- the full gamut.

I did my vocal wake-up routine as I worked from home and discreetly chewed gum to encourage saliva at the beginning of the service. I felt pretty confident about the song- “I Can Only Imagine”- it’s one of sherry’s and my all-time favorites as far as devotional stuff is concerned. I walked up to the podium, my palms jittery and I could feel adrenaline coursing through my vocal chords. my voice came out sounding of licks embedded within other licks (tremolos?) and I observed as verse one and chorus one finished that I was now coming into my own. I could finally drown out all the people looking straight at me, I could tame the tsunami wave of blood and take the helm. the rest of the song was a breeze. I wished I could have sung like I did last night in a practice room at the SF conservatory, but alas it was not meant to be. in the end I wanted it to be an offering, a song sung in my best voice for God, for healing over sherry and her family.

and even as I walked away from the podium, Gloria, sherry’s mom’s four surviving sisters said in hushed tones, “thank you.” a solemn reverie misting the air. I accepted these words and allowed myself at last to cry for their loss and for my microscopic way of breathing encouragement and healing over them.


Blogger sunny said...

“thank you.” a solemn reverie misting the air. I accepted these words and allowed myself at last to cry for their loss and for my microscopic way of breathing encouragement and healing over them.

Well said. I too mourn for Sherry's loss, am across the country and couldn't be there. I'm thankful you were there to "breathe encouragement and healing over them".

12:49 PM  

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