I stand in front of the church, the rainbow suitcase in my hands. The pews are packed and dozens of people line the overflow area. I’m shaking but determined to go through with this. Taking a deep breath, I step up to the microphone.
“The greatest tribute I can pay Mom is to share this suitcase with you. We started making it when I was five years old and Mom was diagnosed with cancer. She would spend months at a time in hospital and this suitcase was full of special things that reminded me of her.” I carefully place it on a table near the pulpit. “As you can see, it’s just an ordinary cardboard case; the type kids used for school years ago. Mom and I had great fun decorating it.” I rotate it slowly so everyone can see the splotchy yellow sunflowers with fat green stalks and a rainbow that arches across a sky of azure blue.
“Mom was a Wizard of Oz fan and that’s what inspired the rainbow theme. Looking back, I think it was her way of preparing me for losing her. She told me many times that God’s home was somewhere over the rainbow; that one day we would all go to live in a better place with Him.”
I pop the latches on the case. “The things inside here symbolize who Mom was to me.” I draw out a small bottle of perfume and dab some on my wrists. “This was Mom’s favourite perfume. If you knew Mom, you’ll be familiar with it.” Some of the people nod as the fragrance drifts across the church; the sweetness of honeysuckle mingled with sandalwood and a hint of jasmine. “Mom’s presence was like this perfume; it filled the space she was in and brought joy and happiness to those nearby.”
Next out is a handful of scarves and I drape them across my arm. “Mom wore these scarves when she lost her hair after chemotherapy. Not once, not twice, but four times.” I lift them up; a suffusion of ruby, jade, amber and amethyst. “To me, these are symbols of her courage and strength.”
I replace the scarves and pull out a soft pink cushion, the size of my hand. “Mom made this for me. She said if I felt lonely, I was to cuddle it and pretend she was holding me.” Tears start to flow as I hold it up to my cheek. “This cushion has been my comfort in so many places. It’s been to exams with me, to sleepovers and to hospital. It’s been to the dentist and I even took it overseas. This is Mom’s tenderness, her soft heart and compassion.”
The pastor’s wife hands me a tissue as I lift a pendant from the rainbow case; a glowing pearl caught in a stream of gold. “Mom gave me this for my 16th birthday. She said it was to remind me of the pearl of great value in Matthew 13. She wanted me to remember that nothing in life can compare to God.”
The people nod as I gently touch the rainbow case. There are many more items within but only two more I want to share. I hold up a silver twenty-first key. “As the years passed, Mom was told several times that she only had months to live. Eventually, she told the doctors that she was going to see my twenty-first birthday.” The tears start again and I pause for a moment.
“Most of you will know that she was at my twenty-first party three weeks ago. This key reminds me of her tenacity and determination.”
I sniff back the tears as I pick up the cover of a CD. “I think it’s fitting that I end my eulogy with this.” My voice cracks as I turn my eyes heavenward. “I love you, Mom. I know you’re up there and free at last. This is for you.” I take my seat as the sweet sounds of a young Judy Garland ring across the church.
Somewhere over the rainbow
Way up high
There's a land that I heard of
Once in a lullaby
Somewhere over the rainbow
Skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true
Some day I'll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where troubles melt like lemon drops
Away above the chimney tops
That's where you'll find me…
"Somewhere Over the Rainbow" music by Harold Arlen and lyrics by E.Y. Harburg
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