We held our first memorial service for Mami, Diana McRae Angulo Iber, on Saturday, Oct. 4th at my sister Diana's home church in Plant City, Florida. I wanted to share some of the details of the service, which my siblings and I managed to plan in just one day (Diana and I went to sleep after 3AM that Friday putting the finishing touches on the service, the program and a PowerPoint slide show). Thank God Mami had mentioned several times that she wanted certain hymns sung and the 23rd Psalm read. We will forever be grateful to her for sharing her wishes with us, because she rarely spoke about dying.
Order of Service:
Opening prayer: Pastor Ramirez (a bilingual minister my sister contacted for the service)
Reading: "I Know Not Why" by Morris Rosenfeld*, read my brother Jorge
I lift mine eyes against the sky,
The clouds are weeping, so am I;
I lift mine eyes again on high,
The sun is smiling, so am I.
Why do I smile? Why do I weep?
I do not know; it lies too deep.
I hear the winds of autumn sigh,
They break my heart, they make me cry;
I hear the birds of lovely spring,
My hopes revive, I help them sing.
Why do I sing? Why do I cry?
It lies so deep, I know not why.
Hymn: "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God"
Reading: "Irish Funeral Prayer," read by brother Louis
You can only have one mother
Patient kind and true;
No other friend in all the world,
Will be the same to you.
When other friends forsake you,
To mother you will return,
For all her loving kindness,
She asks nothing in return.
As we look upon her picture,
Sweet memories we recall,
Of a face so full of sunshine,
And a smile for one and all.
Sweet Jesus, take this message,
To our dear mother up above;
Tell her how we miss her,
And give her all our love.
Hymn: "Great Is Thy Faithfulness"
Eulogy: My sister Diana and me (We had to read the eulogy, based on my post from the day Mami died, from my BlackBerry, because with all the computers in my sister's house, somehow none of them would connect to the printer. We were running late and decided to just email the eulogy to my BlackBerry. Since Mami loved her cell phone so much, we figured this was actually fitting).
Sandie: Our beloved Mami passed away Thursday morning. It was a
quiet death, with Diana at her side. It was not the passing we had
hoped for -- one where all four of us were somehow there at the same
time, her birthday blanket of all the grandkids' pictures wrapped
around her, her favorite hymns playing in the background -- but death,
like birth, rarely comes exactly how you want or envision it.
Diana: Most of you here did not know Mami. We want to share a little bit about her so that you can get a small sense of how special she was. To have known her, was to have known a truly incredible woman. We have not been surprised by the many phone calls from around the world that we have received these last two days.
Sandie: This past New Year's Eve, Mami was genuinely happy. She had traveled to my house for Christmas and stayed through New Year's, when my brother Louis and his family came down from New York. We had a great time together. We went out for seafood. We played Scrabble. We had one of my mother's favorite foods -- shrimp cocktail with extra lemon and cocktail sauce When the clock struck midnight, Mami got choked up toasting to 2008, saying she felt blessed to ring in another year. Looking back, we think she knew in her heart of hearts that it would be her last New Year's, but as always she kept the tone sweet and festive.
That was our mother -- the life of a party, everybody's best friend -- a petite but fierce woman who overcame so much tragedy throughout her life and battled cancer on her own terms until it was finally time to let go.
Diana: Mami loved so many things that were as diverse as she was. She loved TV shows like "I Love Lucy," "The Golden Girls" and "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." She loved to dance the Colombian dance la cumbia and watch telenovelas like Victoria and Doña Barbara. She loved movies like "Gone With the Wind" and "The Godfather." But she also loved the Vacation movies with Chevy Chase. She was a great dancer but a terrible singer. She loved the singers El Puma and Julio Iglesias but also Carlos Vives and Marc Anthony. She thought Clark Gable, Tom Selleck, Burt Reynolds and George Clooney were the most handsome actors ever.
Sandie: She never left the house without a full face of make-up on, and until the lymph-edema caused her one leg to swell up, she almost always wore high, high heels, size 5 1/2. Until recently, she always covered her gray, sometimes with a color other than black. She felt naked without jewelry, especially earrings, but thought ankle-bracelets were trashy. In her thirties, she was once confused for Sofia Loren, even though Mami was at least eight inches shorter than the Italian actress, and she never stopped talking about that.
Diana: She couldn't get enough of old-school celebrity gossip or news about Queen Elizabeth and Princess Diana. She dreamed of going to London and seeing Buckingham Palace. When she finally did go, it was a dream come true for her, but when she went to Paris after being in London, she ended up preferring Paris. She said that it was as if she had been born to live in a city like that with the late nights, the crowded cafes, the international restaurants, and the amazing culture.
Sandie: Mami's house was always open to anyone who came from Colombia and needed a place to stay. She never minded giving out a bed or a room. When we were growing up, there always seemed to be someone staying with us when they first came to the United States. Even if we minded, she never did. If someone was from Colombia and a friend of a friend, that was all she needed to offer them a place to stay.
She loved all of her friends and when you became her friend, you were a friend for life. She loved to go to parties and dance the night away. She loved to dress up in costumes for parties and she loved to be on the go. It wasn't until her illness got the better of her that she slowed down and had to stay home more.
Diana: We could go on, she loved her friends and her children, and she absolutely adored her eight grandchildren, who were the delight of her life. She never stopped loving our father, who died when she was 37.
Most of all, Mami loved Jesus, her Lord and Savior. She prayed a lot, not just for herself, but for others. She held firm to her faith and reliance on God the Father, until the very end.
Sandie: Rest in peace, Mami. Rest in our Heavenly Father's arms. We'll miss you every day of every year for the rest of our lives.
Message about the 23rd Psalm: Pastor Ramirez
Hymn: "Holy, Holy, Holy"
Special Tribute: Memorial slide-show
On her tribute card, we included this poem, which was read at the Queen Mother's funeral service at Westminster Abbey. We know Mami, Anglophile that she was, would approve:
You can shed tears that she is gone
or you can smile because she has lived.
You can close your eyes and pray that she'll come back
or you can open your eyes and see all she's left.
Your heart can be empty because you can't see her
or you can be full of the love you shared.
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday
or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday
You can remember her and only that she's gone
or you can cherish her memory and let it live on.
You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back
or you can do what she'd want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.
*Rosenfeld was a great early 20th century Jewish poet, who was considered "the poet laureate of the slum and the sweatshop," and was known for his Socialist, pro-labor poems originally written in Yiddish. This now seems perfect, considering my brother Jorge's politics and our family's history in New York.