Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"Bye Bye Miss American Pie" . . . Saying Goodbye to Jennifer

First, a quick back story. My kids' dad died when my son was 12 and my daughter was 14. After the shock of it all, we held a beautiful memorial on a grassy knoll in a park beside San Diego Bay. Purely unplanned, the ceremony ended with the chiming of a carillon.

Just before that, a folk singer sang "Country Roads," one of my husband's favorites. Hearing it still moves us all to tears nearly 37 years later, made even more poignant when my son performed it at a large family reunion when he was about 16.

Jump forward to March 6, 2011. It would have been Jennifer's 49th birthday. Instead, it was the day my son chose for a Celebration of Life for one we lost on December 1st, the day before her daughter's 20th birthday. Jennifer had fragile health all her life, but pushed through so many issues, who would have guessed she wouldn't push through her most recent bout with pneumonia? It was sudden, a pulmonary embolism.

That's Jennifer, in the maroon shirt, many years ago.

The out-of-town family descended on Arroyo Grande on March 5.
Ben, with daughter Ashley, nephew Roman and Lady

Me and my sister Elaine

Ben's son Chris with Lady

My daughter Melissa, Elaine's husband Phil, their friend Linda, and Elaine

Ben had rented the Portuguese Hall in town, had members of two bands he plays in there to provide music, had BBQ, roll-up sandwiches, salads and fruit, and beverages brought in. Ashley baked cookies and cookies and cookies.

Roman takes over flower arranging, perfected in Costa Rican jungles.

Attention to detail

Small sampling of Ashley's cookies

Chris and band member Ernie set up.

Ben asks Melissa to offer an opening prayer.

She's been asked to keep it short. That's a big laugh!

She's noted for her lengthy prayers in the manner of the Native American Church.

Ben asks friends and relatives to tell stories about Jennifer and tells his own as well.

Ben speaking of life with Jennifer

There was a lot of good humor expressed here today, and stories about how Jennifer had touched lives. She was a giver and a healer and there was a fleet of young people to whom she played second mother. Listening to them talk about her, I felt she had truly changed lives for the better. I was there at the house for a week, and these young people streamed in and out at all hours of the day and night all week, as is their habit, and my son loves having all of them around.

Then my son finished by singing "American Pie," and as he sang his heart out, our tears came and we whispered to each other that this was our new Country Roads.

Ben singing - wish I could upload the video

We all eat afterwards.

As usual, I am slowest and last.

Everyone else has gone to enjoy the music.
 Lots of leftovers for the next few days . . .

Leftovers going home with us

I get a bouquet at my bedside.

And they were singing,
"bye-bye, miss american pie."
Drove my chevy to the levee,
But the levee was dry.
And them good old boys were drinkin’ whiskey and rye
Singin’, "this’ll be the day that I die.
"this’ll be the day that I die."

(From American Pie Lyrics by Don McLean)

See you tomorrow.



  1. I'm sure she would be proud of the way you have honored her. It is such a sadness when you lose someone too soon.

  2. Thank you for the wonderful slide show of the celebration of life. Jennifer sounded like a very special woman. I much prefer celebrations of life than funerals. They leave us with a sense that loved ones that have passed as still with us but not in the same way. They will always be in our hearts.