My brother Mark would have turned 65 last week on August 30, an age that often comes with the privileges of retirement, senior discounts, and leisure. He never reached that milestone here on earth. God called him to his heavenly home on May 22, 2018.
On his 64th birthday, we didn’t think to play him John Lennon’s and Paul McCartney’s When I’m Sixty Four. He would have smiled at the lines: “I could be handy mending a fuse when your lights have gone,” something he did more than once at Aunt Ruthie’s house.
When doctors told us the end was near in May, our family held vigil at his bedside where where friends and other family said goodbye.
At the service, we reviewed his life with photos.
This is one photo from my sister Jean’s album that was not seen at the memorial service.
Birthday Remembrance at Gus’s Restaurant
Mark’s daughter Kiki, my sister Jean with Linda and Leroy Wentling marked his August 30 birthday with a breakfast in his honor. Displayed on one of the walls behind the coffee shop counter is this photo of Mark taken on the barn loft at Aunt Ruthie’s house.
Italian wedding, a soup choice that day.
He left behind two items which bookend his life: his baby book
Mother was busy with four children. I happily filled in the details of his baby book in my 12-year-old handwriting.
When we cleared out Aunt Ruthie’s house last year, we found dozens of Victorian valentine cards. He chose these three. Now they are Kiki’s keepsakes.
At Mark’s memorial service at Bossler Mennonite Church, we sang the four verses of Amazing Grace à cappella. Voices rang out in 4-part harmony. Obviously, they didn’t sound like the rendition of Aretha Franklin, Queen of Soul, who also died recently.
A Young Aretha Franklin Sings Amazing Grace
What songs do you associate fondly with the passing of a family member, friend, or well-known person?
Share your observations of rituals for remembering loved ones.
What a lovely tribute to Mark, Marian. I love that you helped your mother with his baby book entries…that’s so sweet. <3
Thanks for noting my cursive writing here. I loved any excuse to write with a fountain pen: here’s documentation to prove it. I hadn’t seen these pages in years, not since we cleared out mother’s house. You are numero uno again today, Jill!
I love to write with fancy pens, too! 🙂
I’m not surprised, Jill . . . very appropriate for a writer of romance. 🙂
When I had my first short story published, my father gave me his Montblanc pen that he received as a retirement gift. I love to write with that and a fancy pad of paper, too. 🙂
What a powerful gesture from your dad, Jill, like being knighted with something mightier than the sword, symbolically speaking. <3
I love the song “Turn, Turn, Turn (To Everything There Is A Season)” by Pete Seeger. It’s adapted word-for-word from Ecclesiastes 3, which was read at my mother’s funeral.
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance …
This is a perfect passage for a funeral, helping mourners, family especially, to see that death is a part of life. I wonder if T. S. Eliot was thinking of Ecclesiastes when he wrote about “turning” from one stage to another in his poem Ash Wednesday.
Thank you for reminded me of Pete Seeger’s rendition, Lynn. I can hear his voice in my head now. 🙂
Good morning, Marian! This is a beautiful remembrance. I really like that photo of Jean’s with Mark holding the binoculars, and I also love that you filled in Mark’s baby book with twelve-year-old dedication. My younger daughter sang “Amazing Grace” at my father-in-law’s memorial service. It brought lots of tears. I don’t think we had any music at my Dad’s memorial. If we had, I think we’d had have to play show tunes. 🙂
Thanks for all of these “noticings,” Merril. You may remember that show tunes were the soundscape when Kathy Pooler shared video from her mother’s memorial service. What a way to enliven a mournful day!
This is so beautiful, Marian. Thank you for showing these photos. I especially love the first one. And that baby book is precious!
I’m seeing the vintage photo with fresh eyes too. It was in my sister Jean’s stash of pictures, so I don’t remember when I saw it last. Thanks for popping in here with a comment, L. Marie. 🙂
I am sure Mark will celebrate his birthday wherever he is now and will be glad to know you all have remembered. Big hug. ❤
Days before he died, Mark assured us he had the hope of seeing heaven. In fact, as the dying often do, he told us he had a vision of daddy waiting for him.
Thanks for the comment and the big hug, Fatima! I’m glad to see you happily ensconced at home now. 🙂
My brother, who also died of cancer 12 years ago, also said he could see our Mum waiting for him. I guess we will find out one day…
When Mark entered hospice, we were told that the dying see things and people invisible to others, so I wasn’t too surprised at what he was telling us. Still, a mystery!
At my mother’s funeral Mass, my childhood friend came up to my father and I on the mission’s front step. Dorothy wanted to sing for my mother. This friend and I sang duets all through Jr and senior high school. Completely unplanned [and unrehearsed], she ascended the stairs to the choir loft and sang “Ave Maria” acapella. Not a dry eye in the church, including the bus full of German tourists who stationed themselves at the back of the sanctuary. [Service was held at a historical California Spanish mission; no clue how my sister arranged that!]
What a kind gesture from Dorothy. She is a gem of a friend. And your sister ~ off the charts for foresight and care. Thanks you for all the sentiments expressed here, Ginger!
How special. I am sure Mark enjoyed his birthday from afar. We played “I´ll Fly Away” as we watched a collection of pictures reflecting Dad´s life at his memorial service. My daughter read “A Cowboy´s Prayer”. The cowboy boots and a sheaf of wheat by the guest book and the cowboy hat on the casket were touching. It was perfect and I know he would have liked his send off.
The cowboy theme seems perfect for your dad, farming the Canadian soil. As it happens, Mark’s monument will feature two sheaves of wheat flanking his name and dates. He wasn’t a farmer, in the literal sense, but he repaired lots of farm equipment in my dad’s shop.
“I’ll Fly Away” is a fitting song, as I imagine your dad would see the humor in it! Thanks, Darlene.
“Precious memories how they linger, how they ever flood my soul
In the stillness of the midnight
Precious sacred scenes unfold.”
This song came to mind as I read your words, Marian.Life is such a mix of sorrow and joy, heartache and bliss!
Life is such a mix of sorrow and joy, heartache and bliss! How right you are, Elfrieda. I feel somewhere in between today, just focusing on the precious memories.
Marian, I really enjoyed seeing this. I notice that at the young age of 12, you already had a gift for writing and making note of important memories!! On the first birthday after my brother’s unexpected death, I was missing him so much, so started typing memories of him which ended up being a “Memory Book” which also included some memories from some of his nieces and nephews and brothers. This was a real healer in my journey after his passing.
I believe I remember you mentioning about the Memory Book, which helped you experience the healing qualities of writing. I wonder if you have shared it with your relatives since then.
Thanks so much for stopping by today, Mim!
“Children of the Heavenly Father, safely to his bosom gather….”
We sang this for my sister, Vivan, who died one week short of her 21st birthday, as a senior at Eastern Mennonite College. What a shock.
I was 15, and, while I could not make sense of my sister’s death, and the unwelcomed presence of grief that never ends came to live with us, the ritual we went through seems to keep us together in some invisible way.
You express the mystery of your sister’s passing so well, Dolores. Sudden and unexplainable but bearable somewhat because of the ritual. Deaths of the elderly seem more acceptable than those entering the prime of life, harder to understand. This gospel hymn has helped me. It may or may not be your cup of tea, but the message is comforting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k1dVxCa77sI
My condolences to you, my dear sister!
Wonderful. Thank you dear sister.
It’s lovely to remember and have tributes to someone’s life and milestones. The cremation service for my grandmother had a couple of her favorite Flemish songs in it. I wasn’t present, since I live out of the country, but I listened to a recording afterwards. And, on a recent memorial service for my sister-in-law on the ocean, her daughter had created a playlist we listened to during the sailing voyage.
How profound that music and song honors the passing of your loved ones.
Apparently, you are back in the game again, Liesbet. It’s refreshing to take a blog break, isn’t it? I need to check on you at roaming about soon. 🙂
A beautiful tribute, Marian. I sang Morning Has Broken at my last Grandmother’s funeral. My Grandmother died as the morning sun started to stream in, and so this song was requested. It would have been easier if there had been space between my Mom’s eulogy and the song. It was so hard. My Mom wants me to sing I Can Only Imagine, but I’m not sure I could do it.
Oh, my word, Jenn; you have a tall order! Whether or not you can sing it, “I Can Only Imagine” is a hopeful sentiment. I hope your Ma has many good years ahead of her.
What a lovely way to honor your brother’s memory Miriam. Uncanny, my brother’s birthday is also August 30th. 🙂
I hope your brother is in the land of the living still, Debby. Thanks for noting this, and for honoring me (and him) with your posting. 🙂
Thank goodness he is Marian. Stay blessed. 🙂
The first birthday after the death of a loved one is always especially poignant/difficult, depending on the circumstances of the passing, right?
Almost 20 years ago, my middle daughter’s great friend, Edie, lost her mother to complications of kidney failure and long term dialysis. They were in high school band together. The band played Amazing Grace at the graveside, at a country church cemetery with mountains all around in late November. I still tear up at the stirring memory. Later that week the band played (and won) at a football game that sent the kids to state playoffs. Siuch a mix of grief and elation for the kids.
Your anecdote describes LIFE to a tee: Such a mix of grief and elation for the kids . . . and us too!
Literary lover that you are, here is a quote from H is for Hawk: The archaeology of grief is not ordered. It is more like earth under a spade, turning up things you had forgotten. Surprising things come to light: not simply memories, but states of mind, emotions, older ways of seeing the world.” Thanks for sharing yours, Melodie!
Lovely quote, Marian. Thx.
Marian — What a lovely tribute to your brother, Mark. I particularly enjoyed the photograph of your dad, Mark, and Jean. And I love that you, at age twelve, helped fill in baby book details for your mother. Wow!
My mother probably would have gotten around to filling in the baby book details, but I wanted to put my stamp inside the cushiony, satin-covered book with a fountain pen. She had four children then, ages 12, 9, 7, and an newborn, so of course she needed help. 🙂
I imagine Little Luna Blue will have baby “books” galore: all the social media + chapbooks, and more!
Thanks, Miriam, for sharing your thoughts about your brother. I especially liked the baby book, in your handwriting! The valentines were special too. It’s good to look back at the tender spots of our loved ones. I have some very old valentines that belonged to great aunts, on my mother’s side!
These old valentines are special. Sometimes I think they belong in a museum. I’m glad Mark’s are in the hands of his daughter, Kiki. Thanks for sharing here, Anita!
This is such a lovely tribute to Mark, Marian. Every time we share these precious stories, we keep the spirit of our loved one alive. Cleary, Mark was a gentle and generous man who was surrounded with much love, both during his life and now that he has passed. I’m so happy to “meet ” him and hope these sweet memories console you in your loss.
Your thoughts and sentiments flow so beautifully here and touch my heart. You’re in the “flow,” Kathy ~ with your book and on your blog. Thanks for visiting mine!
Oh how those first anniversary dates can pull at the heart! I love how you’ve speckled such a sad post with loving, quirky, and fun images and memories. That photo of Mark with the binoculars is precious. And the baby book! Good choices, Marian.
You know all about constructing a potpourri of idea on your blog: You do it every week. Thanks for noticing the collage on mine this week, Janet.
Beautiful remembrance of your special brother. I love the photos as well as the remembrances. Amazing Grace is a gorgeous song, but when the first note begins, I start crying. It just really hits a chord deep within us, doesn’t it? My mom told me years ago that when she dies, she wants me to play the song “On Eagles Wing” – “You who dwell in the shelter of the Lord
Who abide in His shadow for life
Say to the Lord
“My refuge, my rock in whom I trust!”
And He will raise you up on eagles’ wings
Bear you on the breath of dawn
Make you to shine like the sun
And hold you in the palm of His hand.”
Amazing Grace seems to resonate across many cultures and religious persuasions for some reason, maybe because it reaches out to a Power beyond ourselves. Thanks for including the lyrics to the song your mom suggested, Pam. Lines from the Psalms seem to echo in the words to this lovely song. 🙂
Your grandson Ian loves to ride his ‘Mark bike’, it has character like your brother had!
Well said, and thanks for transporting the bike and a truckload of other stuff from PA to FL. Artifacts like these help to reinforce the memories. Thanks, son! 🙂
This post drips with sweet family love and grace. Thank you, Marian. I love the photos as always and love thinking of you singing many verses of “Amazing Grace.” Makes me cry to imagine it.
I’d tried Catholicism as a high school girl as I looked for a spiritual home. I didn’t find it there, but I did learn “Hail Mary,” a prayer I still love (skipping right over the sinners part in “pray for us sinners at the hour of our death” to just “pray for us at the hour of our death.” In the past, Virginia corrected me when I left out those words, but she’s paid her dues. There were no sinners in the room. My son took a photo of me leaning over her saying the prayer the day before her death. She couldn’t speak, but she mouthed the words “Hail Mary.” When I asked her if I should say it again, she nodded yes. I said it many times. Anthony and I wept. I’d called her priest to give her Last Rites that morning. It felt good to have her “anointed” in peace with her faith which was deeply shaken at Vic’s death.
Bless you for bending to Virginia’s wishes in spite of your dissimilar beliefs. If I were in the room with you, I would have classified myself as a sinner covered in God’s grace, and not because of any good works that I have done either.
Yes, she is at peace at last and now you are closing that chapter of your shared life at her side ~ a completed cycle if there ever was one. Thanks for tuning in again, Elaine, especially when you’d rather be mingling with monarchs. (Tee tee!)
Such fond memories of your dear brother . I grew up with all The Beatles wonderful music and yet ‘When I’m Sixty Four ‘ was not a favourite. When I hear it now , I quite like it ,perhaps I ‘m getting nearer to the time in my life when I can relate to it 🤭
Anything from ‘The Sound Of Music ‘ and I instantly think of my mum , she adored it . For years after her death I just couldn’t listen to anything related to this wonderful musical without sobbing , now I look back with joy and sing along just like I used to when she was alive .
Grief takes as long as you need it to…you can not measure it .
You are always wise and light-hearted when you comment, even if you reflect on sad times. As to “When I’m Sixty-Four,” I’m not particularly fond of it either except that it marks a certain milestone in one’s age. “The Sound of Music” is a different matter for me all together. Cliff and I both agree that we fell in love watching that movie in Cinerama (WoW!) I wouldn’t mention it except that now you look back with joy and sing along just like when your mum was alive. Precious memories . . . thank you, sweet Cherry! 🙂
A lovely tribute! Such beautiful memories…