I’ve been thinking quite a bit about my mother these past few weeks, remembering stories and different parts of her life.

At the age of 95, my mom passed away the day after Thanksgiving, so it’s appropriate that I have spent some time reflecting on my past 60-odd years with her.

One of the memories surrounds the big gray upright piano that was in our living room for 40 years. Mom had five children, and all of us were required to take piano lessons until we reached a respectable level of proficiency.

My dad was adamant about it, and Mom shared his wishes even though musical ability was not her strength. She always said that when the music teacher came to her classroom in her Aroostook County grade school, the teacher dismissed her to the library. She was basically tone-deaf.

So as children, we loved it when she monitored our piano practices. She never heard the wrong keys, the bad chords or the missed flat or sharp. When we had finished our mandatory 30 minutes daily practice, she would say, “That was nice, dear.”

Mom had made her funeral wishes quite clear. Since my siblings are stretched between Maine, Hawaii and Alaska, she asked us not to rush back across the country when she died.

Rather, she wanted a requiem Mass right after her death for people nearby. Then in the summer, when everyone could return to her camp on the lake, she wanted a memorial Mass and a big party with laughter and good food.

So when she died, the Maine relatives arranged for a requiem Mass. The priest hadn’t known Mom till the very end of her life, but he spoke well. Sitting right up front, I noticed how very patient he was with the young altar boy, instructing him where to stand and what to hold. At one point, the priest even reminded the altar boy to cinch his cassock belt, which was threatening to go south.

We found later that this was the first Mass the boy had served. My mom would have approved, as she had logged many hours in that same church watching my three brothers learn to serve Mass – when they had to know Latin responses.

The cantors and the organist performed admirably. It happened to be the first week of Advent, which was also the first week of some pretty significant changes to the Catholic liturgy – the first changes in about 40 years. So there were a few glitches in the music; something was a cappella when it wasn’t supposed to be; someone came in late on a response, but it wasn’t terribly noticeable.

As we exited the church, the priest leaned down to me and apologized for the less-than-smooth musical performance. I smiled and said, “Thank you, Father, but I don’t think my mother would have noticed. I’m quite sure she’s up there saying, ‘That was nice, dear.’ “


– Special to the Telegram