Wednesday, November 30, 2016


The most disturbing word in memorial services is “So-and-so was…” Putting your loved one in the past tense is a seismic shift in reality. That word jarred me each time someone else stood up to talk about my beloved friend and musical soulmate, Francine Hament. (See blog “Sweet Mystery of Life.”) Those photos above are a mere month old, the last time I played with Fran, a piece she requested called Cavalleria Rusticana. I reached out at the end to take her hand, never suspecting that it would be our last moment at the piano together.

Not all cultures believe in past tense when it comes to death. Places where the presence of the Ancestors is felt as a perpetual present might still say, “Fran is…” instead of “was” and why not? As long as they are called forth in memory, they are perpetually present, albeit in different form and substance. A simple shift in verb tense doesn’t bandage the wound of absence, but perhaps offers a soothing ointment of remembrance that nothing ultimately is gone as long as it lives on in our hearts. I know that sounds dangerously close to a Hallmark Greeting card and there’s nothing I despise more than softening the full power of language to comfortable little clichés. Sorry I can’t find the words now to say it better.

Some of my written eulogy at the service was taken from the “Sweet Mystery of Life” blog, but I did add the following at the end. It felt right to read this in company with our family and fellow residences and other loved ones and of course, I was weeping and gasping out the last paragraph or so. How this woman touches my life (note verb tense!). Here’s what I said:

“When I play these songs now, I can so clearly hear Fran’s voice singing along. The other day, I heard a song called “I See Your Face Before Me.” In the spirit of Fran, I changed the words:

I hear your voice before me, singing in every song
While I play, I hear it, this is where it belongs.
It doesn’t matter where you are, I can hear how fair you are
I close my eyes and there you are, always.
We shared so much magic, I felt you saw me too
That’s why there’s nothing tragic, in all these thoughts of you.
It seems that love will haunt us so, knowing that we miss you so
We can’t erase your beautiful face before us.

How I wanted to run over and share it with Fran and hear her say, “We’ve never sung that one before!” And now, the unimaginable has happened and I say to myself, “We never will sing this song together.” And that’s about as sad as sad can be.

But how lucky I was that our paths crossed as they did. No better way to end than with two song titles: The Song Is Over But the Melody Lingers On and Francine Hament, everybody in this room know how true this next song is: There Will Never Be Another You. Thank you for blessing us with your presence. May you rest in peace and enjoy some time in that other world with Frank and Bing and Ella and Louis. They’re so lucky to have you. 

And so were we. And so were we.

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