24 January 2008

Memorial Service for My Mother

My genealogy friends have helped me through some very trying times the past few years. Five days after my Mom’s death on January 8th, a group of these friends held a memorial service for her. It was held at the Salt Lake Plaza hotel in Salt Lake City. I was there that week teaching at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy and for meetings of the Federation of Genealogical Societies. I will never be able to put my gratitude into powerful enough words to express my thanks to the friends who did the planning and those who attended. Some drove to downtown SLC on their day off from work at the Family History Library. Some were flying back home that day and gave up prescoius last-minute research hours to be there. Thanks to Marilyn Markham and Geoff Morris for letting the Institute teachers and registrants know about my Mom. Thanks to Rich Williams of the Plaza Hotel for providing the room and chairs for the service.

J. Mark Lowe, from Tennessee, presided at the service. His loving and humorous eulogy touched many people. Some said it was as if he knew my Mom. He didn’t, but I did know his special Mother who passed away just this past September.

For a few days before the service, Mark and others were making notes of things I said about Mom. Mark used these in preparing his remarks. Pam Boyer of Virginia was not in Salt Lake City, but did a nice job of informing people about Mom and the service. During the service a slide show of pictures of Mom and a recent four generation family picture were showing continuously. The four generation picture included Mom, me, my daughter Katie, and her daughter, Kendall. (Someday I will tell you about the quirks of another four generation family picture.)As we walked into the service, music with a meaning was playing in the background. The day before, I was given a CD of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir by the Institute staff. Several songs from that were playing, as was a meaningful spiritual sung by the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus that another special genealogical colleague belongs to. As a group we sang On Eagle’s Wings (Mom requested this for her funeral) and Amazing Grace. Marjorie Sholes from California sang a solo of How Great Thou Art and we joined in. Readings were done by Mark, Jan Davenport from Arkansas, Pat Oxley, Texas, Lou Szucs, Illinois, and Josh Taylor from Massachusetts. Birdie Monk Holsclaw from Colorado and Karen Mauer Green also helped with music and other parts. Martha Henderson from Missouri helped with the set up and passed out the yellow ribbons.

There were bouquets of flowers, including yellow roses to represent my Mom’s favorite color. Tea candles were lit and placed on mirrored tiles. (Thanks, Josh) A guest book was placed next to them by Sue Kaufman of Texas. The wonderful friends spent a long time making yellow ribbon pins for us all to wear. Another friend, Dawne Slater-Putt from Indiana, gave me a special Angel to add to my pin. I was crying and smiling at the same time. The service was very ecumenical and was also a healing time for friends who had lost parents, in-laws, and friends over the last year. Some who attended were in the midst of personal health and other strife.

I did giggle a bit as I realized this meaningful service was put together and carried out by genealogists. Mom probably groaned at this! Mom, you didn't get to choose the time for this gathering, so it was a time that worked for many others. I hope she also realized how many faiths were represented by the 50 people in attendance. Genealogy is not judgmental in the areas of faith, color, disabilities, nor in the horse thief ancestors. I counted Catholic, Presbyterian, Church of Christ, Mormon, Episcopal, Lutheran, Jewish, Orthodox Jew, Baptist, and other religions in the room. Those in the room represented many U.S. states and Jan Gow from New Zealand was there. Others were there in spirit and by emails and cards.

Thank you all for honoring my Mother. After more than a decade of suffering, she is at peace. Your outpouring also helped my Dad and helped me be at peace with her passing. I am so fortunate to have my birth family and my special genealogy family. I love you all. Now, she can help us by urging our deceased ancestors to show us the way to solving those genealogical questions that are always on our minds!

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