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.
Memorial service, Sacramento, 7-29-2005, thanks to Jack
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.
Memorial service, Sacramento, Mr. Morgan, 7-29-2005, thanks to Jack
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 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 "Ciao Meekeee!"
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 know
that I'm off to Italy now. I leave tomorrow and will return on February
2nd. But at the beginning of this new adventure, while I was driving
around today, running errands, I started to reflect on the past six
years, and what they've all meant to me. Some of you have been here
since the very beginning, some shortly after, and some more recently.
Some I've gotten to know just in the last year, and some I've gotten to
know more than others. I've met most of you, and some I haven't. Some of
you I'll see next week in Bologna. Some I hope to meet in the future,
and some perhaps I never will. It doesn't matter. I just wanted to let
each of you know how much your friendship has meant to me throughout the
years - or year, hehe. Your wit and wisdom, your support and good cheer,
even the bitching and whining, and the gossip - I love gossip! - and the
support that you've shown for in general and for me in particular
have really meant so much to me!

God, we've had fun, haven't we? As some of you know, my enthusiasm isn't
what it used to be, but it's been such a spectacular ride hasn't it?? So
many high points! The Kennedy Center debut, the Hollywood Bowl,
Philadelphia (Rosalee, that will always be the best moment ever!), Las
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 list
them all. Some low points. That horrible security guard in Washington, a
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 every
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 each of
us has had our own special moments over the past years, and I wouldn't
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 Marsha
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 you
know that I've loved each and every moment that I've spent with you,
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 back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rain fall soft upon your fields,
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.
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.
Memorial service, Sacramento, 7-29-2005, thanks to Jack
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."
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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 were here.
I regret that we won’t endlessly analyze strategies for yet another U.S. concert tour for Andrea.
I regret that I won’t be able to learn from and collaborate with you on future translations.
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 d’oro."
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

Memories of Mickie