This particular piece comes just before the second anniversary of my mom’s death, so if you do not like sad stories you may want to stop reading.
Every day, without fail, I come into work, sign onto YouTube and play “Here’s That Rainy Day” sung by Sammy Davis Jr. Every day for nearly two years. We discovered that it was the first song on my mom’s iTunes playlist, and so it happened to be the first song played at her memorial. This daily ritual is my personal reminder to keep her memory front and center, to never be too busy or let too much time pass without thinking of her. And in some way the song connects me to the memorial service which then connects me to the last few months of her life. I guess in some psychoanalytical way, if I can feel that the loss is still fresh, then it doesn’t seem like time is moving on farther and farther away from when she was here.
If there is such a thing as a good song for your mother’s memorial, then “Here’s That Rainy Day” seemed to work out perfectly. The song was a tender soundtrack for someone so kind and gentle, and it set a reverent mood for the morning. It worked for us the same way I have heard “On Eagle’s Wings” played on piano at Catholic services.
The song starts with the soft sounds of guitarist Laurindo Almeida playing harmonics like celestial bells ringing in this formal occasion. These opening notes doubled down our focus of why we were there. And, for the family, it wasn’t just a rainy day, it was a torrential downpour.
The song continues, and the guitar strums the melody as Sammy mournfully sings,
“Maybe I should have saved those leftover dreams, funny but here’s that rainy day.”
The room was ready, all the tables were set, the microphone worked and the sole picture of my mom was affixed to the lectern. The photo of her was taken in Cuba with a cigar in her mouth and mojito in hand raised in a toast with a conquering smile of being up for anything.
Once my dad, who had sweat over the details of the service, recognized the voice and music, he said, “Ah, perfect.”
“..funny but here’s that rainy day”
Here was that rainy day indeed.
Sammy seemed to sing directly to the family just as the guests began to arrive. All of the Cohns were in different parts of the room trying to keep a brave face before things got really heavy.
“Here’s that rainy day they told me about, and I laughed at the thought that it might turn out this way.”
True. I never thought we’d lose her so soon and in the way we did. I had taken for granted that there is longevity in the family, and I expected her to be here at least another 10 years. I never thought it would turn out that my daughter would grow up not knowing her, or that we wouldn’t fulfill our promise of taking Mom “shopping for potatoes” like we had joked about with her for years.
Sammy tenderly continued to deliver the lines:
“Where is that worn out wish that I threw aside
After it brought my love so near?
Funny how love becomes a cold rainy day
Funny that rainy day is here.”
The guitar then took over to repeat the melody as the large gathering of family, friends, and colleagues funneled into the room. The music played like a perfect movie soundtrack, and I stepped out of myself for a moment to watch the scene develop. Could this be real? Could it be true?
Each guest came with heartfelt sympathy and the “is-there-anything-you-need?” look in their eyes. Luckily, I was carrying 2-month old Marley, so I had a good distraction for holding it all together. I welcomed everyone and invited them into the room. I couldn’t sit with my closest friends though because I knew I wouldn’t be able to remain stoic.
Our special guest speakers shared anecdotes covering the full spectrum of my mom’s life. My dad spoke about how 60 years together was a full lifetime but passed as quickly as a puff of smoke. The three Cohn siblings’ remarks were vastly different and with our own very specific voice. I was very impressed with how my sister delivered “a walk through the valley of the shadow is not an easy one” describing the conversations she had with our mom in the final months. My brother, who is typically more hyper-sensitive than I, had psyched himself up for a few days and delivered upbeat tales of Mom’s tireless support, cheerleading, check-ins and documenting every holiday or special occasion.
I was not nearly as brave. Nope. I had a friend from the Literary Society read my statement since I knew I wasn’t capable of forcing even one word out of my mouth without a complete breakdown.
The song comes back to the repeated verse with the melodic guitar following Sammy again:
“Funny how love becomes a cold rainy day,
Funny, that rainy day….”
and Sammy holds the last few notes a bit longer:
And finally the song ends with flutters of guitar that immediately reminded me of a bird’s or butterfly’s flight off into the sky. Or maybe it was like someone’s soft wave goodbye. And that’s exactly how she left us on that Friday evening of Oct. 9, 2015.
The song faded out, the people filled up the room, and my dad got the memorial started.
To my amazement, life has moved on, and new memories are being made all the time.
Football seasons, concerts, documentaries, holidays, world events, birthday parties, brunches all come and go, and sometimes it’s hard to fathom that she isn’t here for any of it. I now understand “the presence of absence” reference.
There is a new family ritual. We light a candle at each gathering to hold her place at the table, to remind us of the strength of her light, and that she is still the light with us who glows through any rainy day we may have.
And I’ll be back in the office on Monday morning listening to the song, probably a little choked up and with a tear in my eye, but happy to have taken the moment to keep Lois Cohn’s memory alive and with me each day.