Thanks to Cami for writing this.
There is nothing to add. Renate
- May the Road Rise to Meet You
As I write this, I can’t help
thinking that if Mickie were "reporting" on her memorial
service instead of me, she would have completed it swiftly and
succinctly within less than a 24-hour turnaround. It makes me laugh…and
it makes me cry.
Flying into Sacramento the night
before the memorial was difficult...not just because it was 1:00 in
the morning our time. It was just hard not to think that at another
time, we would have had the excitement of anticipation to be
greeting Mickie for the first time again after a long absence and to
share her hometown—and all that it meant—with her. Now there was
just this dull queasiness in my stomach and a glowing ember of
sorrow that waited to flare up at unexpected intervals.
The day of the memorial, the
forecast was for a high of 98. The sky was brilliant blue, just
begging for comparison with Tuscany. It seemed so right, and yet out
of sync with the events to come. I didn’t know what to expect.
Gormley and Sons funeral home was a venerable, homey-looking edifice
in an older, tree-shaded neighborhood of Sacramento. It was built in
the 1920s. The minute we walked through the door, I could sense
Mickie’s presence and felt a calm that had eluded me for days.
Right inside the door was a panel filled with pictures of young
nurse Mickie with her colleagues from Sutter General Hospital. Wacky
and animated scenes—Mickie doing karaoke, lined up on the beach
with friends in bathing suits, precariously perched with bodies and
legs askew on some floating raft ride, dressed to kill for a gala
event. Precious memories lovingly compiled by her colleague Debbie.
They knew her well enough to include a single panel devoted to Italy
and Bocelli with the huge cutout word "DELIGHT" pasted in
the middle. The posters had been displayed at the memorial service
that had taken place the day before at the hospital. On the table,
there was also a single framed picture of a smiling Mickie in Italy.
- The service was held in a
small, impressively simple chapel attached to the funeral
home. It was filling up quickly, and people were very chatty,
probably sharing infamous "Mickie stories." I met
a Bocelli newbie, Barbara Parker, who had driven for three
hours to honor Mickie, though she had never met her. I heard
the name Konrad and turned to meet the longtime friend of
Mickie who had posted this on the OS, "Mickie's Family
and friends have read with tears of joy and sadness, all of
the wonderful posts. The outpourings from friends and also
those that have appreciated her dedication to all things
Bocelli. I know that this was her passion . . . ."
- Quietly in the background was the
voice of Andrea singing the Schubert "Ave Maria" then
"The Prayer." Matt had asked several of us for ideas of
what to play. He knew his mom would want Andrea’s music. We
eventually agreed on a list of 11, but it was Matt who zeroed
right in on the perfect choice for his mom, "Do you think you
can find a track of him singing ‘My Way’?" He was equally
certain of the final selection, "Time to Say Good-bye"
It had also been the song he and his bride Stephanie had chosen
for their first dance on a happier occasion. The other two pieces
he selected were "Sogno" (because it conveyed both the
intense expression of longing for a loved one no longer near and
the certainty of being reunited) and the other one that I had
known to be his mom’s favorite, O dolci mani, from the
last opera of Andrea’s that we had all gathered together for
last summer in Torre del lago.
- The minister for the service,
Reverend Donna Van Maanen, had spent Wednesday afternoon with the
boys to form the framework of the tribute. She noted that for the
most part her perspective was of Mickie as mother and, she
remarked, these boys knew their mother well. She learned how
Mickie had loved Christmas and the gathering of family, how they
enjoyed an annual trip to Santa Cruz for beach time together, how
the boys appreciated the challenge their mother had faced of
raising two strong young men on the not-overly-generous salary of
an RN. Pastor Donna arranged her words around the four Bocelli
songs Matt and Erik had chosen. Because the chapel was small,
Andrea’s voice filled it with the intimacy we know so well. It
was literally as if he were singing just for Mickie. After each
selection, there was audible sniffling, with one exception— the
recorded exuberant whoops and applause from the concert audience
that followed Andrea’s triumphant, long-held note at the end of
"My Way" elicited animated laughter from the group in
the chapel. The minister smiled too and commented, "I take it
that was appropriate for Mickie!" When she had finished, the
minister invited family and friends to share their stories.
- Mr. Morgan was, of course, the
first to speak. With quiet strength, he described the final
moments of his daughter with her son Matt at her side. He related
how the birth of your firstborn instantly changes your life
forever—"like the flick of a switch," and the wonder
in his voice at this reality also reflected the immeasurable depth
of this loss to him and to Mickie’s mother (who was sadly unable
to attend the service because of a recent painful shoulder injury).
His pride in his first daughter, her intellect, and her successful
nursing career was clear. From his pocket he pulled a letter she
had written home as a 23-year-old nurse in her first job at St.
Francis Hospital in San Francisco. She had made an observation
that seemed quite simple to her but apparently had major
significance for a research project at the hospital. She was much
praised for the contribution, which she dismissed several times
during the letter with the comic refrain, "I still
didn’t know what I did!" She was self-effacing about her
intellectual ability, but the father’s pride that had preserved
the letter for 37 years was unmistakable.
- Mickie was the oldest in her
family, with two sisters (Robyn and Maureen) and two brothers
(Brent and Mark). They were all there. Her sister Robyn and
brother Mark spoke. Robyn emphasized her sister’s amazing
presence. "When she was in a room, you knew it"
and, not surprisingly, Robyn admitted feeling a little
overshadowed by her older sister. Mark was obviously bewildered by
the loss of this sister, and astonished to learn previously
undiscovered attributes of her through the tributes of her
memorials. "I sat at the hospital memorial yesterday and I
thought, where have I been? I had no idea of all that she had
accomplished." But Mark knew well what his sister had been to
him. She was the kind of sister who would pay for the medical
intervention he needed so desperately. He considered every new day
of his life to be a tribute to her generosity.
- We can’t say enough about Mickie’s
sons Matt and Erik. Their sensitivity to their mother’s friends—most
of them strangers to the boys—was remarkable. Their poise and
maturity throughout the service was extraordinary. Erik strode to
the podium in his trim sailor’s uniform and admitted he wasn’t
much of a speaker. But he knew what was important to him to say,
and his first words were a gracious thank-you to one of his mother’s
nurses, Jolene, who had written the letter to the Red Cross that
had made it possible for Erik to obtain the special permission he
needed to leave his ship on duty in the Persian Gulf and travel to
his mother’s side. "If it hadn’t been for Jolene, I would
not have been able to see my mom for the last time." It was
obvious that these sons knew and appreciated the tenacious,
single-mother love that had brought them to their adulthood. But
they also knew their mother well…no artificial sentimentality
for this service. Erik related how he had walked into Mickie’s
room for the first time when he arrived from his long trip home
from sea. Doctors had said how important it was to connect with
Mickie and keep her mind active. He began to speak to her
immediately. "Mom I’m here," he said. "I came
halfway across the world to be with you. Do you have something to
say to me?" Mickie responded instantly, "I had chocolate
pudding for dessert tonight."
- Matt followed Erik (his 6 foot 6
inch frame making his impressively tall younger brother seem short!),
and before he said anything else he noted again that his brother
had just come home from the Persian Gulf and thanked him for his
service there to his country. Among other things, Matt
acknowledged that his mother would not be particularly remembered
for her congeniality or diplomacy and that she certainly wasn’t
shy about sharing her opinion, but he too mentioned the power of
her presence, her tenacity, her keen intellect, her love of travel,
her "acerbic" wit, her widely varied interests that she
always mastered easily. Again, Matt demonstrated that her sons had
obviously inherited Mickie’s dry wit, telling the story that on
the joyful occasion when Mickie regained consciousness for the
first time after her attack he was there. She struggled to say her
first words to him. "Yes mom, what is it?" Matt leaned
closer to save her the effort of speaking loudly—"I…I
want…." Again he gently encouraged, "What is it mom, I’m
here." "I want…..a PEPSI!"
- Yet, the testimony of loyal
friends from so many different stages of her lifetime who filled
that chapel belied Mickie’s gruff, unsentimental façade. She
knew and treasured the value of friendship, and her friends had
come here representing so many phases of her varied interests—the
bridge group; the professional colleagues; Konrad, the friend of
30 years, who shared not only the bridge but Mickie’s passion
for crafts; Heidi, the childhood friend, who feared the early
toddler wrath of Mickie enough to hide her thumb-sucking
imperfection from her on their daily walk home from kindergarten.
It seemed the entire ICU staff, filling an entire row, had somehow
managed the afternoon off to pay tribute to the mentor who had
taught them so much about their profession. As one of them, Dana,
said, "She raised me from a pup!" And oh how they had
struggled to help save her in the final days. All had stories to
tell. We alternately laughed and cried hearing them…it was a
true celebration of Mickie’s life.
- Mr. Morgan had already mentioned
Mickie’s work translating for Bo.de and the outpouring of
messages from Bocelli fans that had obviously touched the family.
They seemed now to understand that there was no doubt of the
importance of her affection for and dedication to the Tuscan tenor.
So I hoped to explain and represent this aspect of her life a
little better to the others gathered there. Here is what I could
remember afterward of what I said on behalf of her friends from
the Bocelli world (believe me, I felt the support of your
friendship there with me)—
- It was the love of Andrea that
brought us together—along with so many others. But for a woman
with the personality, intellect, and curiosity of Mickie, this
interest developed into much more: she learned the Italian
language, she explored the beautiful country of Italy, she learned
all she could about opera…and not just the beauty of it but the
intricacies of its technique…and she mastered the complex art of
translation. We shared all these things with her and more. We
e-mailed nearly every day, and when the thoughts came too fast and
furious for e-mail, we would talk on the phone. (I was always
grateful that she lived on the West Coast and I lived on the East
Coast, because Mickie’s brain hit the road running every morning,
and I needed the headstart of those three hours to be ready for
her!) She devoted an enormous amount of time to the Web site
dedicated to Bocelli that was founded by her close and dear friend
Renate in Cologne, Germany. With Renate and Astrid, who lives in
Austria, they firmly established and have maintained an invaluable
resource for anyone interested in the Italian tenor. And he
recognizes it as the only official fan site. Andrea was a friend
to Mickie, and he knew her by the sound of her voice (who among us
wouldn’t have given our eye teeth to have the tenor recognize us
by our voice!). It was the most amazing thing to see it happen in
a room filled with pandemonium. She would call out "Ciao
Andrea," and he would flash an immediate smile and shoot back
- I was searching for the right
words to describe to you what all of this meant to her. As these
things sometimes happen, the words came to me from out of the blue—from
one in the circle of friends, Gloria Morkin, and they were Mickie’s
own words. Gloria had found a message tucked away in her e-mail
archives that Mickie had sent to many of us just before she was
leaving on a trip to Bologna for one of Andrea’s operas. It
really could apply to this wider circle of her friends gathered
here as well:
I just wanted to write a short note to a few of you, to let you
that I'm off to Italy now. I leave tomorrow and will return on
2nd. But at the beginning of this new adventure, while I was
around today, running errands, I started to reflect on the past
years, and what they've all meant to me. Some of you have been
since the very beginning, some shortly after, and some more
Some I've gotten to know just in the last year, and some I've
know more than others. I've met most of you, and some I haven't.
you I'll see next week in Bologna. Some I hope to meet in the
and some perhaps I never will. It doesn't matter. I just wanted to
each of you know how much your friendship has meant to me
years - or year, hehe. Your wit and wisdom, your support and good
even the bitching and whining, and the gossip - I love gossip! -
support that you've shown for bo.de in general and for me in
have really meant so much to me!
God, we've had fun, haven't we? As some of you know, my enthusiasm
what it used to be, but it's been such a spectacular ride hasn't
many high points! The Kennedy Center debut, the Hollywood Bowl,
Philadelphia (Rosalee, that will always be the best moment ever!),
Vegas NY Eve '98 when we heard him sing "My Way" for the
first time, the
Werther Detroit experience, Torre del Lago...I can't even begin to
them all. Some low points. That horrible security guard in
few cancelled performances… And some things I'll never
forget. The "usher" incident, the Anaheim "arrest,"
watching La Boheme
every single night for a month and dissecting every second of
scene over and over again, the "dreamboats," the
Parthenon, the mad dash
from the Connecticut border...
Not all of you were there for every one of those incidents, but
us has had our own special moments over the past years, and I
trade it for anything. Maybe I'll never be able to capture the
excitement of those early years again, but I'll always have those
memories, and who knows what the next years will bring?
All of you know that I'm not usually the sentimental type, and
probably hit the "delete" button a few paragraphs ago,
and to tell the
truth, I don't know what's got into me. I just want to let all of
know that I've loved each and every moment that I've spent with
whether in real time or cybertime, and I'm looking forward to more
adventures in the future!
Ciao, a presto!
- My Jack then added that we had
shared so many wonderful times in Italy with Mickie, and that
exactly one year ago to the day, we were together on a
sun-drenched boat trip to Cinque Terre. Mercifully, we had no idea
then what the future held.
- Inevitably that final song had to
be played, and after "Time to Say Good-bye" was over,
the congregation read together the Irish Blessing:
- May the road rise to meet you,
- May the winds be always at your
- May the sun shine warm upon
- The rain fall soft upon your
- And until we meet again,
- May God hold you in the palm of
- The family invited all to a lunch
reception at Dante’s Italian American Club. Matt & Stephanie
graciously invited Jack and me to sit with them and Stephanie’s
parents. We shared the bounty of good Italian food (Mickie would
have loved this!) and afterward there was time to meet her friends
and share some hugs and tears and smiles. A definite highlight was
the album filled with the messages from all of you from around the
world that had been posted on the Official Site. We had collected
and printed them out and included some pictures of Mickie at
concerts and operas posing with many who had written. Matt had
insisted on placing the album at the front of the hall and all who
looked through it were simply astonished that Mickie was literally
known by fans worldwide. It was a consolation for their loss.
- The final image in my mind from
last Friday is of Mr. Morgan. He had lingered with Jack and me
after the reception until we were the only ones remaining. As we
hugged one last time in the empty parking lot, I said to him
"Mr. Morgan, will you tell your wife something for me?"
He asked, "What do you want me to tell her, Cami?" I
said, "Tell her, thank you for your daughter."
- a b
- An Epilogue
- Mickie had a pretty firm "no
regrets" policy, but I’m afraid I just have to defy her. I
have a whole list of regrets.
- I regret that we won’t
travel once more to Viareggio, stay in that perfect little
room looking out onto the blue Tyrrhenian sea, and hear our tenore
at Torre del lago sing onstage—FINALLY—the beautiful opera
of Puccini, la Bohème.
- I regret that you won’t come
out to see all that we’ve done to the new house since you
- I regret that we won’t
endlessly analyze strategies for yet another U.S. concert tour
- I regret that I won’t be
able to learn from and collaborate with you on future
- I regret that you won’t have
to chew me out again for my bad-news-bears ineptitude at
copying TV programs involving Andrea appearances (you always
bailed me out with a copy of your own, no matter how much time
it consumed in your life).
- I regret that you won’t be
there at the other end of the thousand automatic thoughts in
my brain that touch on something to share with, argue about,
or laugh, rant, mourn, sigh, nitpick, obsess, or kvetch over.
- I regret not having learned
all the Italian lyrics to "Angelo e Diavolo" in time
to sing them with you as we planned at the top of our lungs at
the little café in Torre del lago.
- I regret that I won’t get
another late-night e-mail message tenderly signed "sogni
- I regret that Astrid and
Renate are looking into a painful void in their Bocelli world
along with so many of the rest of us.
- And, oh, I so regret that I
will never hear again that Tuscan tenore of ours call
out to you "Ciao Meeeekeee" . . .
- But I do not regret—even for an
instant—a single moment of our friendship.
- . . . Sogni d’oro, amica mia.
- C. McNamee