September 30, 2013
That’s right. I have a choir. But I’ll get to that in a bit.
Sofia’s memorial service was on Saturday. And it was just right. I don’t know how else to describe it. There was one of the wisdom readings from Proverbs, a picture book, and two songs. And it was right. There was nothing fancy. It was exactly what it should be.
And it was hard. I went through a lot of tissues. But Nicki kept me stocked. And took my used ones to toss (especially once we realized we were standing two feet from a waste basket). But it was good. I saw a lot of people from work. Both Lori and Sue (midwives, for those of you who’ve lost track) came. Sue even had a chance to sign the birth certificate that one of my mom’s friends graciously and beautifully calligraphied for me. My nurses were there, including Tonya and Sarah who helped deliver Sofia. Almost all of my cousins, all of my aunts and uncles, relatives who have no other designation because it’s too much work to figure out exactly how we’re related… And oh so many friends. Women who used to work with my mom. People for whom I used to babysit. Children I used to babysit who are now adults because, let’s face it, they’re only a few years younger than I am – a big age difference when one is 15, but nothing when one is 35. My best friends from both high school and college. And a lot of theatre people.
There was only one element that I knew from the beginning had to be included, and that was the reading from Proverbs. It was something I’d studied in a theology class in college. (I swear it was Women in Religion, but it’s highlighted in my Bible in green, and I used purple for that class. I can’t recall which theology class had the green highlighter. Unless I didn’t have my purple highlighter on me that day… Jesuit school… I took a lot of theology classes.) It’s a beautiful passage about how Wisdom has always existed and was there when God created the earth. It’s one of the reasons the name Sofia means so much to me. I asked one of my oldest friends to read it. (Jess and I danced together.) And since she’s Jewish, I asked her to read it in Hebrew as well as English. (Her mom commented that she could really say anything and no one would know. Jess replied that there would be at least one other Jew there. I told her she was right and pointed him out. Hi, Lou!) And it was just right. It was a gentle way to begin, to bring everyone into the same place.
I hadn’t thought much in terms of music, other than that there should be some, before Julie emailed my mom to say that she wanted to help. I like to paraphrase it as “Hello! I’m a music teacher!” But it was really more than that. She pointed out that, as a music theatre person, I know a lot of singers. (That’s actually how I know Julie. But she really is a music teacher, too.) And, yes, she assembled an ad hoc choir. And they were amazing. While some people proposed “Set Me as a Seal”, it was too… funereal for me. (I know. Funereal is okay for a funeral. But that’s not what felt right.) I tried to think of something, well, Broadway. And Julie made a couple of suggestions, one of which I’d thought of: “You Walk With Me” from The Full Monty. She also asked if it was okay to have some singers who didn’t really know me to ensure that there would be people singing who weren’t simultaneously crying. The choir consisted of 11 people. I knew 10 of them. (Thanks, Laurie, Terese, Jacy, Lou, Gary, Issa, Lynn, Regina, Julie, and Asa!) Two of them, Terese and Issa, were in The Full Monty with me four years ago. Terese made it through the song simply because she didn’t look at me. Issa was standing right in front of me… And again, it was right.
Terese then said a few words before reading Wherever You Are: My Love Will Find You by Nancy Tillman. My mom and I thought a picture book was a good idea for a second “reading”. And since Terese is a first-grade teacher (and a cousin), she seemed like the perfect person to ask to do it. I was prepared to ask Betsy, who is the children’s librarian in New York, for suggestions, but Terese was ahead of me. And this was the right book. It was the perfect link from the first song to the last song.
My mom was determined to say a few words. And she did. She made it through. She invited people to join us for lunch. She even made a joke about music theatre that made my theatre friends laugh.
And then my choir rose to sing one more song: John Denver’s “Perhaps Love”. I love this song. It is, frankly, the best song the man wrote. And I am surrounded by people who have never heard it. (Okay, they’ve heard it now.) And I don’t get it. I cannot be the only 35-year-old raised on a diet of show tunes and folk music. But Julie was able to find SATB sheet music for it. And while nothing can compare to the original recording (John Denver sang it with Placido Domingo!), they sang it beautifully. And it was the right way to end. And if you’ve never heard, I can’t recommend following the link enough. Because it is just… right.