I finally slept on Sunday night. It’s been a long time coming, but I am finally beginning to feel human again.
The funeral service is over… and I really believe she would have loved it. People from every stage and segment of her life came to pay tribute and share their stories with us and with one another. I was so very glad to know that they felt that the service was a fitting tribute to our mom… it was heart wrenching and achingly difficult to create, but I am so glad that I pushed for each piece.
The private internment was first. Neither my sister nor I wanted to speak, so we asked Jennifer+ to conduct the service. She then poured part of mum’s ashes into the ground and scooped a bit of the dirt onto her ashes. She turned, handing the scoop off and Jessica, Tucker, Eric, then Me, Michael, Drew, Evan and Gabbie each in turn took that silver scoop and laid some dirt over her ashes before letting Pastor Jennifer finish. It was hard, but it was simple and lovely. Deb had selected a sweet spot off to the back side of one of the high benches and it seemed perfect. We then needed to go back into the church to collect ourselves before the service… thank God there was a back route into the chapel so we could avoid other people at that moment.
When it came to the mechanics of the service, my sister Jessica didn’t want to have much input, other than having Amazing Grace at the beginning and Silent Night at the end. I wasn’t a fan of doing Amazing Grace but if Jess found comfort in that piece, it was worth having it done. We both remembered Silent Night as mum’s favorite because it had been Mimi Bream’s favorite, so that was a fitting end. The rest was left to me.
The service started out with an introduction by Pastor (the Rev Dr.) Jeff Gibelius, who pronounced Mum’s middle name incorrectly… and with so many Bream family members present, I couldn’t let that slide. Gently but firmly, I corrected our family pronunciation and let him know that this was the *correct* way to pronounce her name… with a long A sound instead of the long E in Bream. While some chuckled, I could feel Mum smiling at my correction and that felt good.
We then moved to the three verses that I chose. I didn’t know Evan wasn’t feeling well and he hadn’t realized that I wanted him to speak (forgot to text him when he got back from London), but I’m so glad that he did. I was also grateful to know that he told his Aunt Laurie later that he was glad I pushed for him to speak. He had a horrible cold and felt lousy, but he did a beautiful job on the Psalm. Kudos to him for handling this with such skill and ease. I only wish now that I had asked both Evan and Bob to introduce themselves to the congregation so that people knew who they were when they read.
- Psalm 121 (read by Evan Althouse – Mum’s second of three grandsons and my younger son):
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD which made heaven and earth. He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand. The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul. The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.
- 2 Timothy 4: 6-8 (read by Bob Wilkins – Jennie’s husband and Mum’s nephew-in-law): *Note: the service bulletin actually cited verses 4-8 but I asked Bob to only read 6-8, which he kindly agreed to do.
For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
- John 14:1-6, 27 (read by Pastor Jeff of 2nd Pres) *Note: the church likes to also read verses 25 and 26, but I requested that only verse 27 be read to end this passage.
1-6: Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: If it were not so, I would have told you.I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, ad the life; no man comes unto the Father, but by me. 27: Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
We sang “In the Garden”… a Robin Hood favorite and one that I just love. How could I not include this wonderful hymn? Remembered harmonies floated around me and I could feel the support of Robin Hood…. Miss Duncan, Miss Ruland, and all the CRH girls who had a hand in raising me…. helping me to be strong at such a difficult time.
The choir sang “We are the Lord’s”, which sounded so pretty. I personally wish there had been more harmony, but some of that could have been driven by the emotional nature of the service and the voice parts available… either way, Chris made a lovely choice and I’m sure my mother would have been pleased and so grateful to have them sing.
We then came to the “Remembrances” segment of the service.
- My cousin, Jennie Wilkins, went first and absolutely owned her moment. She was eloquent, charming, engaging, funny, and so incredibly sweet in sharing all the different sides of her Auntie Gwenn… I couldn’t have done this and I am humbled and honored that she was the one of us who *could*. Adding in a SOCK reference was great and if she could have just been able to end with a “mic drop”, that would have brought down the house (and made her some $$ on the side)!
- Second to share was my cousin, Wendy Bream Stoner, who read a message from Uncle Jack Bream. Listening to Uncle Jack’s words gave me such comfort and I am so blessed that he was able to share his thoughts of Mum, even though he was so far away. It meant the world to hear his voice through his daughter.
- Bob Foster came next, a man who knew mum both through Real Estate and through the Carlisle Area Sertoma club, sharing his two stories. His vivid tales, first of my mom dressing him up as a woman and then of her great works through being Realtor of the Year and later Sertoman of the Year, truly added a wonderful dimension to the breadth and depth of my mother as a true Christian. I was so grateful to both Bob and Doug Gale for their participation.
- To end the rememberances, I asked my husband, Michael, to read an excerpt from an Elizabeth Doris Fries poem that Mum and I had first heard at Uncle Johnny Beegle’s funeral in October. Mum loved it and we felt it was especially appropriate for today:
When tomorrow starts without me, and I am not here to see,
If the sun should rise and find your eyes all filled with tears for me,
I know how much you love me, as much as I love you,
And each time you think of me, I know you’ll miss me too.
But when tomorrow starts without me, please try to understand,
That Jesus came and called my name and took me by the hand.
He said my place is ready in heaven far above,
And that I have to leave behind all those I dearly love.
But when I walked through Heaven’s gate and felt so much at home,
As God looked down and smiled at me from his great golden throne.
He said “This is eternity, and all I’ve promised you,
Today your life on earth is past but here it starts anew.
I promise no tomorrow but today will always last,
And since each day’s the same here, there’s no longing for the past.”
So when tomorrow starts without me, don’t think we’re far apart,
For every time you think of me, I’m right here in your heart.
Much of Mum’s love of music was wrapped up in both her church choir and her participation in Sweet Adeline’s. We were so incredibly touched that they were able to participate in the day’s service by singing their version of “Mary, Did You Know”. I’m sure that Mum was so very grateful to each one who took their time to be with us that morning… I even felt that I could hear her voice from time to time, which made this piece even more special than I could have possibly put into the words “thank you”. I hope the Adelines who attended know just how much their singing touched my heart…
Mum’s pastor, Rev. Jennifer McKenna, then offered her words of hope to the congregation. She shared a bit of mum’s history, some personal memories and reminded us all that the glory of Jesus’ resurrection and that God’s Peace, where Mum now resides, is our ultimate focus. I know that I’ll get there eventually, but it was the human contact and individual memories that helped carry me through this difficult day.
My second musical (and CRH) request was to sing “The Old Rugged Cross”. Although the church’s version didn’t include it, my cousins and I added a traditional (for us) line during each chorus, which made me smile and meant even more than a simple hymn ever could. My cousin leaned up and said that the music all sounded like angels, especially with the family positioned between the choir and the Adelines… a heavenly chorus to wash over us and cover us in love and music.
Following the traditional Prayer of Thanksgiving and The Lord’s Prayer, we sang “Silent Night” and followed it with Jack Larson’s “Peace Carol”. I wish we could have sung the two as a duet, as we used to do when Jack was at Second Pres, but I was glad to hear that piece, nonetheless. It brought my childhood and adulthood into a lovely harmony and allowed me to reconcile them to one another.
Our family was ushered into the rotunda after the service’s final blessing and I was given an incredible gift… the gift of thanking and showing my appreciation to all those who took their time to honor my mom by attending the service that day. I know there are some who weren’t able to wait in line or had other obligations… I know there were some who had to leave quickly because of developing weather fronts… but I hope that the following message reaches each person who took the time to attend her service or has spent a moment at ANY time, praying for our peace and comfort, but especially as we paid homage to our grief in such a public way.
You ALL made my mother’s life better… You made her feel needed and wanted and loved… You allowed her to participate in your life in a way that touched her heart and gave credence to the Godly woman she always strived to emulate. She knew that she had people in her life that had her back and she felt the love that we all crave. YOU did that for my mother and I will forever be grateful for every single person who impacted the life of Gwenn Bream Drum. She was loved, she was happy, and she is now no longer in pain. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for the incredibly beautiful Service of Witness to the Resurrection on January 7, 2017.
May God bless you all…
There is a Magic Something, camp so dear
That fills my heart with gladness all the year
Every girl who’s been here, has that Something in her
It is the Spirit of Camp Robin Hood.
In memory of Gwenn “Tookie” Bream
Green Team Captain 1951, KIG