I first learned of the Eventide Singers from my dear friend, Joan VanderVliet, who is a huge fan of yours. And I first heard you sing at our church during a good-bye service for Joan, when we celebrated her time at our church and wished her well on her move to the eastern part of the state to live nearer her daughters. I was reminded of Eventide later in the year, after my Mom, Nancy Sawyer, had been diagnosed with dementia, and I found out that her case manager, Therese Fitzsimmons, sang with your group.

Our family had decided that we wanted to keep Mom in her own home, and provide most of the care ourselves during those final six months. Therese and I talked about Eventide, and we agreed, “Not now, but later.” In September, later came, but at that point I was making so many of those sad decisions … when to agree that it’s really gotten too exhausting for Mom to get her up into her chair in the kitchen anymore; when to make those final medicine changes; when to call family who live farther away to say, “It’s probably time to come”. At that point, when we all really, really needed you … that’s when I didn’t remember about Eventide!

And that’s one thing I wanted to say today, which is that, as our friends head into this end of life time with their own dear parents, I will be watching closely for the right time to suggest Eventide to them. Fortunately, in our family, our daughter, Annie, who was providing almost as much care for Mom as I was, remembered you. She called me on Wednesday, to say I should come over a little early that evening because she had a friend coming to play the piano quietly while Gram slept. I got there, and Mom was asleep, so Annie, her partner, Caitlin, and I sat on the front porch waiting for the piano player to arrive.

I thought Annie seemed a little antsy, but soon a car drove up, and I said, “Well that must be her.” And Annie said, “Actually, Mom, I don’t know anyone who plays the piano, but I called Eventide this afternoon and they’re coming to sing for Gram, and us, and some of your friends.” And my husband walked over with our dog, Gus, and our other children began arriving while the Singers warmed up in the back yard, and my dearest friends came through the door, and a few of Mom’s wonderful neighbors.

The picture I have, that I can never, ever delete from my e-mail because I love happening upon it … is of my Mom, snoozing in her bed in their old dining room, wearing her bright yellow shirt, which was the only shirt she would wear in her last six weeks. The light in the room is warm and dim, my dear friend, Linda Smith is sitting by Mom’s bed, holding her hand; our 10 week old grandson, Will is sitting in my lap by his great-grandmother’s bedside; my husband and three of our five children who could get there on such short notice are all gathered around with their spouses, with smiles and tears, and the Eventide singers are in the soft light in the background, I know they are singing “Love Call Me Home.”

Did I mention we served Manhattans? A few weeks earlier, when we were all chatting in Mom’s room someone had mentioned Manhattans, my parents’ favorite drink, and Mom had whispered “That sounds good!” So on this evening, my husband mixed up Manhattans all around. I doubt that’s what Hospice had in mind when they left us all those medicine syringes, but I can tell you that Mom thought it was a fine way to serve a Manhattan. She smiled.

Ten days later, Eventide sang at Mom’s funeral at Second Congregational Church. A few days later, my brother, who is not a church-goer, called to say that he never expected Mom’s funeral service to make him feel so much better, but it really had. And it was all of you, the Eventide Singers, who did that for us, and all of us in the Clarke and Sawyer families are eternally grateful to you for helping us journey from a time of great sadness to a time of great joy.