My mother, Gladys Jo Robertson Fink, passed away on January 20, 2022. With family scattered far and wide, it took a while for relatives and friends to assemble in Yachats, Oregon, for a memorial service, but the day came at last.
In 2013, my father Joseph Fink preceded Mama in death. We held a memorial service for him at the time but waited until Mama's passing to follow their wishes of having their ashes released into the ocean. On April 3, family and friends gathered on a temperate spring day at the banks of the Yachats River and let its gently flowing current carry Mama's and Daddy's earthly remains to the Pacific Ocean. Then we made our way to my sister’s house to remember the happy, sad, poignant, funny times that we had experienced with our mother, grandmother, great grandmother, aunt, friend.
Two circumstances alleviated the sadness of this occasion. The first was the long and productive life Mama had been granted. She was ninety-six at the time of her death, and most of her years had been healthy and active. Those who knew her often spoke of her humor, wit, love for family and friends, and—a word that came up often—“spunk.”
|Even in her later years, Mama's "spunk"|
Mama had served as the inspiration behind many of my prize-winning contest essays and stories, all of which contained an element of her humor. In her last three years, however, failing health and progressing dementia deprived her of her enjoyment of life. She often mentioned to me she had “lived too long.” She was ready to depart this world for a better one.
The second circumstance to lessen the pain of Mama’s death was knowing of her steadfast faith. As a longtime Christian, she believed in life after earthly death—a life in which she would be reunited with loved ones; a life in which she would be released from the shackles of pain and fear brought on by age; a life in which she could spend eternity in the presence of her Savior. One Sunday when she was in her early nineties, she and my sister were leaving church where “Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)" had been sung. Hobbling along with the use of her walking stick—for her, a form of “chains”—Mama remarked, “I want that song sung at my funeral.” I know she was thinking of the day she could throw away that stick.
Mama also loved the old gospel song “I’ll Fly Away,” finding great joy in the lively tune and comfort in the words of assurance of the better life awaiting her. The first comment I read on this rendition of “I’ll Fly Away” was “If this song isn’t sung at my funeral, I’m not going.” It sounded exactly like something Mama would say.
As friends and relatives said our earthly farewells to Mama, the melodies and lyrics of these songs rang in our ears, reminding us of the hope and assurance Mama had. My prayer is that as you listen to them, you are reminded of the same.