You asked me to sing to you. I complained, "Aw, Mom, I'll wake people up." Once again, I let my ever-present stage fright come before you. Looking back, it's hard to believe I was so selfish. But you persisted, and eventually I caved.
I sang our favorites - Barbara Streisand, Linda Ronstadt and Bette Midler. My voice was quiet and hushed, commensurate with the dim light in the room. I made sure the sound didn't penetrate the walls. You listened with your eyes closed, then thanked me and told me how lovely and peaceful it was.
When we brought you home that last week in January, I would sit with you in the evenings. I read to you from The Tragedy of Richard the Third, knowing it was your favorite. Of course, I made sarcastic comments along the way. "Lady Anne was the biggest idiot in the world." My eyes searched yours for a response, hoping they would open and smile at my glib attempts.
I read you poetry from Robbie Burns and Walt Whitman, and rubbed lotion on your hands. Finally, I worked up the courage to sing to you again. You weren't able to ask me this time. Grandma peeked through the door and gave us a tearful smile. I stopped. "Keep singing to your mother," she said. When I finished Dad asked me, "Would you sing at the memorial service?" You were lying right beside me, and suddenly it seemed so perverse to have this conversation in front of you. "I don't know if I can. I'll try." We didn't speak of it again.
That Saturday, after you were gone, I went home and practiced with a little help from the Absolut bottle. I needed you to hear me one last time, beautiful and unblemished.
And then there I was, standing at the podium. I didn't tell anyone what was planned in case I chickened out. While the minister told me when to come up during the service, Shirley, who was giving the eulogy asked, "But what if someone stands up before Jennifer?" I shot back, "Well, now - they'll just have to wait, won't they?" She laughed, "You are just like your mother." I smiled and thanked her for the compliment.
My hands shook as I faced the microphone. I spoke a few words to gather my courage and compose myself. Then, very quietly, I sang "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."
I thought back to when I was a little girl. You would call me on the phone during one of your trips to watch The Wizard of Oz with me on TV. Miles apart and racking up the long distance charges, we would both squeal during the tornado scene. We sang duets, and trios when Ashlea rode in the car with us. It was our song.
I finished the last line, "If happy little bluebirds fly, beyond the rainbow, why oh why can't I?" Then I whispered, "Mom, you have beautiful wings now. May they take you wherever you want to go..."
At least a hundred people witnessed the most difficult moment of my life, but only one person mattered. Of course I will sing for you, Mom. Feel free to ask me any time.