Mom’s Memorial: A Letterman Top Ten List & Lovely Parting Gifts

Canisters of colorful candy on a buffet table.The memorials I’ve attended have been very solemn occasions. We all wore black. We comforted each other in hushed tones. We cried. We hugged. And after we mourned the life of the person we’d lost, we left with small holes in our hearts.

Mom hated that crap.

Mom died just before Mother’s Day last year after a long, hard battle with thyroid cancer — the kind you’re not supposed to die from. We hadn’t really discussed her wishes much beyond the idea that she wanted her ashes scattered in the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina, her favorite area of the country. I tried to ask her about how she envisioned the memorial a couple of times in that rough last year, and she just flicked her hand and said, “Whatever your father wants.”

My sister, father and I were all together for her final moments, and Papa was relieved when the two of us took the lead on the plans. We didn’t want to make people sadder than they already were. We wanted a celebration.

Our guests said it was the best memorial service they had ever been to. We had a officiant emcee a non-denominational program and showed a beautiful montage of our favorite pictures. And then things started to seriously veer from the traditional funeral script.

When I stepped up to the podium, I invited her young grandsons to join me. They held giant countdown cards for “The Top Ten Reasons We Love Beppy,” which I delivered David Letterman style. I brought up Mom’s love of (ok, addiction to) candy, and I pointed our guests to a candy buffet we had set up with all her favorite sweets. Another Top Ten moment celebrated Mom’s love of flowers, and we had prepared “Lovely Parting Gifts” for everyone: memorial cards made out of paper embedded with wildflower seeds. We had also filled the room and entryway with live flowers and asked people to take them home and plant them in her honor.

We wore bright colors. We regaled each other with warm memories. We laughed. We cried. We hugged. And after we celebrated the life of the person we’d lost, we left with uplifted spirits knowing how many lives she had touched.

Mom would have loved it.

Beth Ziesenis

Beth Ziesenis is a writer, a speaker and a marketing consultant in San Diego, CA. She aspires to be the best Auntie Beth in the whole world, and hopes one day to run the Boston Marathon.

Note: This Perspectives Blog post is written by a guest blogger of The opinions expressed on this post do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Dr. Greene or, and as such we are not responsible for the accuracy of the information supplied. View the license for this post.

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  1. Mary Byers

    What a beautiful reminder that memorial services are the most appreciated and memorable when they truly reflect the person who is being remembered! Wish I had met your mom, Beth! And yes, she would have loved it.

  2. diane

    Thank you for sharing a most uplifting tribute to your Mom, I miss my Mom daily and when we said good bye to her, my brother, sister, and I too regaled each other with silly stories. It made us appreciate her much more.

  3. kim

    We love you all and miss Beppy too!

  4. Sarah

    What a great Mother’s Day remembrance. Miss you, mom.

  5. Beth Z

    Thanks for letting me tell this story. Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms. :)

    • I was reading it when @DrGreene looked up and saw me crying. He was worried something terrible had happened, but I reassured him, I was just deeply touched by your story.

      Thank you so much for sharing.


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