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July 4, 2020

Mack Williams column: Farewell Mary Wilma

By Mack Williams
For the Salisbury Post
Her first name might as well have been spelled “Merry,” judging by her temperament during those years I knew her. Since she had been consecutively married to two men, you might say she had two last names; but in the Southern tradition, we only referred to her by her original first and middle.
I received the phone call of Mary Wilma’s impending death from her nephew. She knew she didn’t have long, and had requested I sing “He Touched Me” and “The Lord’s Prayer” at her funeral.
I used to belong to Mary Wilma’s church, singing in the choir with her. She always complimented me on my solos, then looked at me sternly, often pointing her index finger at me and saying, “Always keep singing for others; for if you ever stop, your singing voice will be taken away from you!” I expected this every time I sang solo in Mary Wilma’s presence; and imagined I would have felt disappointed if she had ever forgotten to repeat that admonition.
A week later, I received another call from Mary Wilma’s nephew, letting me know the impending had become reality. She passed away from natural causes at 88. Her nephew informed me of her funeral plans, everything of which had been pre-planned by Mary Wilma.
COVID-19 regulations were followed; and in this case, the funeral attendees were by invitation only. Some masks were present, along with some distancing. Although, the greatest distancing was effected by me, having placed myself in the furthest-distant choir pew at the back of the front part of the sanctuary, about 50 feet from the congregation. I wore two KN95 masks, but decided to leave my repro-WWII motorcycle goggles at home, as they would have probably been a distraction.
The minister had removed her mask temporarily before her homily and singing, and I removed mine before I sang. I was at a great enough distance from the congregation that I felt they were in no danger from my aerosol.
The minister provided a heartfelt homily. Family and friends read scripture and told many memories of Mary Wilma. She inspired no bad memories! Some eyes welled with tears. Another family member also provided homily, and told of Mary Wilma nursing two former husbands through old age and illness, unto death. Having done so, it might be said Mary Wilma was the “Doubly Good Woman” of Proverbs 31: 10-31.
Since memories of Mary Wilma were welcomed, I told of her always telling me (sternly, with pointed finger) to always keep singing for people, as if I ever ceased, my singing voice would disappear. After this, I told the group that Mary Wilma’s request of my singing at her funeral was an ingenious, though slightly sneaky way of ensuring my voice was still in use.
This was the first time I had been to a public function since the pandemic began.
People together again, along with bright sky and slight breeze accompanying Mary Wilma’s later graveside committal were, in a way, like gifts of remembered normalcy bequeathed by Mary Wilma to those whom she held dear.

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