Thursday, June 17, 2010

My Mom Comes To Mind During Father’s Day

I was so fortunate when my Dad passed away suddenly on his way home from breakfast just a few weeks after 9/11. Stranded in the Pacific Northwest by that attack, I had just been able to spend some memorable and sensitive time with him.

When I was asked to select a song for the funeral that would tell his story I was lucky again. Vince Gill’s Go Rest High On That Mountain came immediately to mind.00013_p_aaeuyfyqe0569_z

Not many people understood my Dad but even people who never knew him sense this song tells his story…a perfect blend of country and spiritual and lyrics like “You weren’t afraid to face the Devil, You were no stranger to the rain…go to heaven just a shoutin,” are indeed my Dad.

My Mom is 82 now and, in her stiff upper lip way, planning ahead for her own passing. She’s always been very musical and gave me my eclectic tastes in music. The Christian hymn Oh My Father would be a natural, one of her favorites.

But I’ve been thinking that Smile composed by comedian Charlie Chaplin might be perfect. It was composed as soundtrack for one of his movies and later John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons added the very simple but poignant lyrics.01660_p_aaeuyfyqe1445_b

Some of my earliest and most indelible memories of my Mom are with this song. If sad or upset or even angry, Mom, then in her very early 20’s, would comfort me by pulling me up on the piano stool as she sang and played this song as though it were just for me.

She didn’t view it as depressive like many did. She saw the song, later made even more popular by Nat King Cole in 1954 when I was 6 years old, as inspirational. She had the sheet music much earlier I suppose.

Of course it has been widely covered by Judy Garland and Diana Ross even recently by Michael Jackson and the cast of Glee but a version by Michael Bolton captures in the beginning that simple piano in my Mom’s version .

The song reflects my Mom. She sees the song, not as a sad song but as one of strength, hope, faith and endurance. It isn’t always easy to detect her true feeling as I’ve been told is true of me.

But she approaches every challenge, such as coming of age during the Great Depression, marrying at 16 as Dad was shipped off to Europe and the war, divorcing once I was grown, losing her eyesight 20 years ago, every setback, as a reason to “just smile”… I hope she’s with us a good long time still but when she leaves this earth, I’ll suggest that this song tells her story. Until then, here’s to you Mom on Father’s Day…

Smile, though your heart is aching,
Smile, even though it's breaking.
When there are clouds in the sky-
You'll get by.
If you smile through your pain and sorrow,
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You'll see the sun come shining through
For you.
Light up your face with gladness,
Hide every trace of sadness.
Although a tear may be ever so near,
That's the time you must keep on trying,
Smile, what's the use of crying?
You'll find that life is still worthwhile,
If you just smile.


maura said...

Lyle Lovett's version of this is one of my absolute favorites - and it works for me both ways. Sometimes it brings me to needed tears, sometimes it brings me joy.

Anonymous said...

maura, if you are local...lyle lovett is coming to dpac.