By Rick Hamlin
One Last Song
I didn’t know Mrs. Osborn could sing, I mean really sing. And I might never have known if I hadn’t gone to her memorial last weekend.
She was one of those people who become a surrogate mom to everyone in her orbit. Not that she didn’t have plenty of children of her own. Her youngest of five, Charley, was one of my closest pals in college. He and I sang in a small, all-male, close-harmony group, doing everything from Beach Boys hits to the McDonald’s song (“You deserve a break today!” remember that?) and Mrs. Osborn was our best fan and critic (“Very nice blend ... a little more from the basses”).
“Mom studied voice at Juilliard,” Charley said, a fact that barely registered with me, but when you’re 20 years old, what some parent did when they were 20 seems like ancient history.
Charley and I kept up over the years, then in his forties—this is the sad part—he was hit with ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and died shortly before our twenty-fifth reunion. He left a wife and two sets of twins behind, four years old and seven years old.
Losing your own child must be the greatest heartbreak imaginable, but Mrs. Osborn seemed to deal with her sorrow by helping her daughter-in-law raise those children. One chore she was always glad to do was take them to their music lessons. Music, she knew, was one of those comforts you could always depend on. She did.
She died at the age of 94, listening to music, in particular a song she knew very well, the “Pie Jesu” from the Fauré Requiem. “Kind Lord Jesus, give them rest,” go the words. “Kind Lord Jesus, grant them eternal rest.”
At her memorial, her children and grandchildren sang—gloriously, mind you—then on the program, I noticed that the “Pie Jesu” was scheduled. Who would sing that? The moment came. Someone flicked a switch and an old recording was heard through the loudspeakers, the singer’s voice pure and true, only a little static on a recording made in a church 50 years ago.
It was Mrs. Osborn. She sounded magnificent. “Pie Jesu Domine, dona eis requiem sempiternam.” I prayed along as I listened, “Kind Lord Jesus, give Mrs. Osborn and Charley and all those who have left us eternal rest.”