Is it possible to have a second Memorial Service for my mother who died seven months ago? A service in the same church sanctuary with the same choir director and organist? Is it possible to feel even more emotions than during that far off fall day in October?
Well, yes it is. Mary B and I took Dad to church at Seattle First Baptist for the Sunday morning service, which he loves. This morning the service was a celebration of Mother's Day and suddenly for Mary B and me, it was all about Mom and music as the medium by which we invoke social justice, courage, love and community.
During my three daughters' growing-up years, I told them, "Mother's Day is a commercial holiday. Don't buy into it. I don't want big doings on Mother's Day."
They learned the lesson well, and I don't receive cards or flowers and they hold off calling me for another day. I'd say don't spend money on mom-things. Just don't buy into it. Now I watch them accept handmade Mother's Day cards from their kids and I hear them tell their husbands what they really want on Mother's Day is a little time-out for themselves.
"Take the kids to the park. I love you all very much. Have a good time."
So, imagine my surprise at reading 'A Brief History of Mother's Day' in the church bulletin this morning and discovering that Anna Jarvis, an Appalachian homemaker who lived in the mid-19th century, organized a day to raise awareness of poor health conditions in her community, a cause she believed would be best advocated by mothers. She call it "Mother's Work Day." That was the beginning.
Then Julia Ward Howe, one of the most remarkable women of the 19th century, began to promote the idea of a "Mother's Day For Peace" after the U.S. Civil War. In 1905, Anna Jarvis's daughter Anna lobbied businessmen and presidents to create a day to honor mothers. President Woodrow Wilson signed the bill recognizing Mother's Day as a national holiday.
However, it apparently wasn't long before Anna Jarvis's daughter recoiled from the day's commercialism and made efforts to call a halt to the holiday. It was too late. The ideas behind the creation of the day - a fight for social justice and peace were lost in a plethora of flowers and sentiment.
I took in all this information about the origins of Mother's Day as the organist played Bach. Then we launched into the first hymn, "Joyful, Joyful We Adore You." Both the music and the lyrics brought me to tears. I was not alone. Mary had her handkerchief out to dab her eyes.
The lyrics spoke to my heart and soul:
"...hearts unfold like flowers before you, center of unbroken praise...well spring of the joy of living...teach us how to love one another, by that love our joy renew...boundless love is reigning o'er us, reconciling race and clan...joyful music leads us onward."
Sacred music like Brahams' "How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place" has always brought me to tears. This morning I found that I cannot get through a church service without crying during each note of music.
Hearing Dad's tenor voice right next to me and remembering Mom as choir director, musician, soloist, beautiful woman, were all causes for tears too.
There was more. The service included an invitation to prayer and one can take a slip of paper to the pastor with a request for the prayers of the congregation. I wrote, "Pray for the family of Doris Thompson. Today is the first Mother's Day that she is not living with us." So, Mom and all of us were woven into the prayer list.
There was yet more. The pastor, in his sermon titled "Songs of My Mother," spoke of his own mother who was a singer and church choir director, a woman who taught him the 'bombastic war horse of a hymn' based on Psalm 27.
"The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear; the Lord is the strength of my life; whom shall I fear?"
The words of this psalm sounded so like the words of Psalm 91 that my nephew Christopher read at Mom's memorial service because, he said, Mom told him that Psalm 91 was her favorite psalm. Again, I was overcome.
The pastor spoke of Julia Ward Howe and her great epic song "Battle Hymn of the Republic." Her lyrics were meant to promote peace after the bitter U.S. Civil War and to decry the deaths of so many sons.
The message this morning? Expect something to happen when we sing this song. Do something for social justice. Play a part in the struggle. Mothers must lead the way to peace, because they raise sons and daughters who go to men's wars. Mothers give voice to peace for their daughters and sons. The sermon was a tribute to all mothers. And it became a second memorial for my mother who died last October at 93.
Mom, you gave us so much and I use the lessons you taught me every single day of my life.
"Reach down for the high note."
"Never back someone into a corner so they lose face."
"Do your best all the time."
"Be safe."
Mom was with us this morning. How do I know? As Mary B and I walked Dad into his family home for lunch, we heard a big crow up in the tree. Who do you suppose was looking over us?
We're here. We love you. Mother's Day will never be the same. Now I know what the day means.


intlxpatr said…
Reading this post, I felt like I was there with you. There is something so evocative about music; it is like God speaking directly in our hearts. Your Mom gave you really good tools for facing life with her wise words.