This week was very difficult as we laid my Mother to rest. We had a viewing at Oakey’s Funeral Home in Roanoke on Friday, followed by a small graveside service on Saturday at Blue Ridge Memorial Gardens. Due to COVID restrictions, we could not have a proper Church funeral, but the shorter graveside service was intimate and respectful with friends and family attending.
Prior to the Friday viewing, I had worked all week on a video tribute for Mom, to be shown at the viewing. I worked day and late into the night making the video, which was a true labor of love. I had many mixed emotions as I put the twelve minute video together; from tears of sadness, to laughter, to joys of happiness, but as I told everyone I encountered, Mom had a WONDERFUL life! (at least before the kids were born! LOL!)
I wanted to show the happiness and faith Mom brought to the world, and I think from the responses I received I was able to capture that, even for those people who did not know her. (The video is embedded at the end of this post.) What took countess hours in making the video was gathering all of the photos to use; many of which where very old black and white or sepia prints which had to be manually scanned in. Fortunately Mom had written the names of people and usually the date on almost all of the old photos I came across, which made it much easier when organizing things. In the near future I’d like to create a photo book with photos of her and my Dad’s life, including many photos I didn’t have time or space to include in the short video.
I went thru hundreds of photos from Mom’s early life to the present, and tried to tell a story with the photos put to music. I used a wedding song (“Because We are in Love), “Morning has Broken”, and even a Christmas song (“Birthday of a King), which was one of Mom’s favorite songs.
I start the video with a lighthouse painting Mom did, followed by three other paintings with Mom seated below them. Mom didn’t start painting until she was in her 60’s!
Growing up in a small town in southern Georgia, I show Mom’s childhood, quickly turning into her adulthood. Mom moved to Washington DC after attending college, where she was a secretary to US Congressman Don Wheeler for two terms. I can only imagine what a different world that must have been for Mom going from the small town of Douglas, GA to the Nation’s Capitol and all of the political importance of the city. It was in Washington DC, where my Mom met my Dad, whom were married in 1955.
Together they raised three children, eventually moving to Roanoke, VA where we kids grew up. Mom lived until age 88, passing away just 5 months after my Dad did, earlier in March. Though now sad for us, they are reunited in eternity.
On Friday we had a late morning, and evening viewing at the Oakey’s Main Chapel funeral home. As Dad was a former Baptist minister at First Baptist Church (which was literally across the street from Oakey’s) the gracious 4th generation Oakey family treated us like family, as Dad had done many services there for church members. As the viewing was on Sept 11th, the American flag was raised at half mask, ironically as it had been when Dad passed in March at Elk’s Home.
The Oakey’s family even provided a beautiful support dog for the viewing, which was patiently available for petting just outside the viewing area. Dogs are wonderful in grief therapy, and this spotless white dog put a smile on many faces.
Mom loved dogs, although we only had one growing up (a French poodle), but she loved my brother Andy’s dog Barnabas, which we would occasionally take to visit her and Dad at their assisted living facility.
Like we did at Dad’s viewing, we brought a few small items to be placed in Mom’s coffin shortly before they closed it. Mom had color-penciled a greeting card in one of her activities classes, but hadn’t finished it. I finished it for her, with a note I wrote and laid it next to her.
We also put in her coffin a couple cards from family, a teddy bear she had in her room, a Mom pillow etc, and as a final note I put the jump drive which contained the music video I showed at the viewing, and which is uploaded to Youtube and shown below.
For the graveside service, my brother Andy’s Pastor, Reverend Sue did the service, and had my sister Jenni, myself, and Art do the three scripture readings, one at a time. The cemetery (Blue Ridge Memorial Gardens) is a large and beautiful garden-like landscaping with a gentle rolling hill site, in a quiet and peaceful setting, ironically near the Roanoke Airport.
While there are very few flights out of Roanoke during these COVID days, and it was quiet the entire service, one plane did take off. Sure enough the only plane taking off during the whole service was when I did my 2 minute scripture reading. As the plane roared by for a few seconds, I thought to myself, “that’s Mom saying a gentle hello”, as she knew how much I loved traveling, and flew out of Roanoke often when I lived there. A couple other people commented after the service about the plane while I was doing the reading and Mom as well. Could it be a sign from above? I’d like to thank so!
Here is the video tribute I made for Mom. Godspeed Mom! Until we meet again.