A Surprising Song at a Mom’s Funeral

To sing is to pray twice, even with a tune from a beloved movie musical.

Posted in , Feb 17, 2020

A song of love for a mom

I knew I wanted to sing something at my mom’s memorial service. But what would it be? One of my earliest memories is sitting next to her on the piano bench as she played her way through the Rodgers and Hammerstein songbook, encouraging me to sing along. 

For Dad’s service, nine years ago, I picked a tune out of it. The Richard Rodgers’ song “No Other Love” because it was a melody used in the score from “Victory at Sea,” a TV documentary about the naval battles of World War II.  

Every time Dad heard any music he liked—Bach, Beethoven or the Beatles—he’d say, “Doesn’t it sound like ‘Victory at Sea’?” It usually didn’t…but at this service I made sure it would. Singing “Victory at Sea" made perfect sense. After all, Dad had fought in the submarine corps.

For a memorial service for someone like my mother, who died at age 93 after a long and fulfilling life, I thought maybe I should sing something stately. A hymn perhaps. She loved singing in church.

But I kept coming back to that Rodgers and Hammerstein songbook, in particular, the score of The Sound of Music. What if I sang “Climb Every Mountain?” That would be a natural. Follow every rainbow till you find your dream.

If anything, Mom encouraged us to follow our rainbows, to pursue our dreams.

If I sang that at church, though, with hundreds of people present I’d probably burst into tears! You can talk through tears, but you can’t sing. There had to be something else, something a little easier, something I could get the congregation to join in on.

That’s when I remembered “Do-Re-Mi.” It’s not exactly what you’d expect at a funeral, but it was a song beloved by Mom and all her kids. It was the best I could do.

First I spoke. Told those present about Mom encouraging us all in our gifts, especially how she reveled in my gift of song. Then I called our younger son, Tim, up to the lectern to join me. And I gestured to the congregation, “Please sing along!”

“Doe, a deer, a female deer/Ray a drop of golden sun…” The sunshine of her love and God’s love filled the church.  

“To sing is to pray twice” goes an old saying. Nothing could be more true of the songs that bring back love into your life even as you are facing unaccountable loss. Sing, sing, sing. It’s all prayer.

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