Memories of My Mother’s Funeral
Held Thursday, March 24, 2010
Giddy Funeral Home, Elora (formerly the home of Uncle Ken
and Aunt Toni where mom often visited
in her younger days)
By Bonnie (Towriss) Callen
Muriel Frances Towriss, my mother, passed away in Room 206
of Groves Community Hospital in Fergus around 2:45 pm on
Sunday, March 21, 2010 – the first day of spring. She
would have been 89 years old on May 13.
Mom had broken her hip on Dec. 12 while walking on Melville
St. road that Saturday morning. Even though it was snow
covered she said that she was heading for the Post Office in
case there were some Christmas cards.
Thursday, March 18 I had lunch with mom at her house where
she had returned after
several weeks in the hospital and a few weeks at my house.
Mom was better than she had been for months – a lovely lunch
was ready, her fine china was on the table and the tea was
The last words she said to me as I got in the taxi were
“Every day something interesting happens to me”.
That night she fell again and was unaware of her
surroundings except for a few hours on Saturday when she
came to, focused on us, smiled, and answered a few questions
with a yes or no. She told me she loved me.
Tuesday, March 23 was visitation in the afternoon and
evening and well over 185 friends and family came to pay
their respects. The common theme that we heard involved the
word “tea” – everyone remarked on the cups of tea they
enjoyed in her kitchen and remarked on her positive outlook
Mom had a lovely casket and looked her very best in a black
dress with a blue and black jacket. She wore her favourite
pearl necklace and pearl earrings. She wore her family
ring that Ken had given her years ago. She took that ring
and her wedding band to her grave. Eighteen beautiful,
fragrant floral arrangements decorated the room- the same
room where her father rested in 1959 and Ellie in 1976.
I insisted to the undertaker that mom wanted to wear her
girdle and he told me just after the funeral that managed to
get it on! Even when she could hardly walk and was
staying at my house she had to put on that girdle – slipping
it over her head since she could no longer step into it.
Barb spent many hours assembling a collage of delightful
photos of mom from her childhood days through to the
She also made a digital album that played on the monitor in
the hall. As well, we brought a number of framed
photos of mom from her house to decorate the room. Her
children, grand children and great grandchildren were all
part of the visitation day. Barb was in charge of the
details for the funeral card and so she chose this poem for
the cards that were distributed to visitors as they arrived
for the visitation:
You can only have one mother
Patient kind and true
No other friend in all the world,
Will be the same to you.
When other friends forsake you
To mother you will return.
For all her loving kindness
She asks nothing in return.
As we look upon her picture
Sweet memories we recall
Of a face so full of sunshine
And a smile for one and all.
Sweet Jesus, take this message
To our dear mother up above
Tell her how we miss her
And give her all our love.
Her funeral was held the next day at 11 am. It dawned
bright and sunny for mom’s party. Colonel picked up
all the desserts and sandwiches at Barb’s and had them
delivered to our house by 8:15. When we got to the
funeral home, I told Barb that tomorrow we could cry, but
today was mom’s party.
Rev. Marty Mollengraff from Knox Presbyterian Church gave a
short prayer while all her family stood beside her casket.
We then moved to the reception room while Mr. Giddy closed
the casket. Music that Steve had put together on a CD
played for the guests in the adjoining chapel. Promptly at
11 our family entered the chapel and took our seats at the
front facing the minister and the closed casket. Rev.
Marty did not know mom as he only recently came to Knox but
he spent a lot of time the day before casually talking
to family and with this knowledge and his insight, crafted
an outstanding sermon.
Rev. Marty opened by stating that the theme for mom’s
funeral would be “A Mother is a Mother, is a Mother” which
was so appropriate. During the sermon, he talked about
how special a mother was in everyone’s life but interjected
it frequently with exact references to information he had
gleaned about mom. He referenced how she had lived her
whole life in Elora, first on Chalmers St. and then moving
almost back to back on
Melville St. He talked about her love for Ellie and how
Dorothy had told him how she would put Ellie in the buggy
and take her for a walk, almost every day. He said
that if the trees could talk they would have a story to tell
about mom, just as mom had a story to tell about the houses
and the people and the community of Elora she loved so much.
(I believe that mom was the oldest life long resident of
Elora). He told a story from Africa that involved a
man being asked who he would save – his mother or his wife –
if their boat overturned. He said in our culture a man
would have a hard time answering, but in Africa the answer
was always the same – Save my mother I can always get
He talked about how mom liked to visit with my Aunt and
Uncle at the funeral home. He told everyone how she
never said an unkind word, and would make excuses for all
her children so that they would not feel bad when something
happened. He said that perhaps it was mom’s destiny to be a
mother and stay all her life in one community living only
300 feet away from her childhood home. He ended by
stating that she had made it clear to her family that she
was never going to live in a nursing home “thank you very
much”. Mom got her final wish.
Rev. Marty’s beautiful sermon was interspersed with personal
remarks by Sharon, Barb and me. I told everyone how much she
loved books and poetry and then I read out loud “The Ship”
by Bishop Brent –
I am standing on the sea shore.
A ship at my side spreads her white
sails to the morning breeze and starts
for the blue ocean She is an object
of beauty and I stand and watch her until at last she
fades on the horizon.
Then someone at my side says
"There she has gone" - gone where?
Gone from my sight - that is all.
She is just as large in the mast,
hull and spars as she was
when she left my side. The
diminished size and total loss
of sight is in me and not in her,
and just at that moment when
someone by my side says
"She's gone" others on a distant
shore take up
the glad shout -
"There she comes!"
I then asked everyone to join me in repeating “There she
Rev. Marty continued with his sermon and then Sharon in her
clear, unwavering voice came to the front and read this poem
about a caterpillar that turned into a butterfly:
As I sat and watched a caterpillar climb upon a rock,
I wondered what he’d say if he had a chance to talk.
Perhaps he would say “how wonderful it would be if I could
For I would soar above these earthly things to a place up in
I would dance among the flowers and enjoy the fragrance
Then I would flutter off to parts unknown, my wings light
upon the air.
I’d fly so high above the trees where only God could see
The freedom that these precious wings had given unto me.
My life would be so beautiful if I had wings to fly,
For I would soar above all earthly things to a place up in
Well, this caterpillar moved along and left the rock behind,
Inspired by his vision, he had his destiny in mind.
So he spun himself a small cocoon and with patience waited
Believing God would find him, he felt safe within his care.
And his faith was soon rewarded on one beautiful sunny morn,
When he woke to find his special wings – this butterfly was
Now I couldn’t help but wonder where that caterpillar went,
And should I mourn his passing or celebrate this brave
For while it’s true, it’s sad that the caterpillar’s gone,
We know he still is with us as the butterfly lives on.
And so it is with you and me when it comes our time to fly,
Our wings will be there waiting in the blinking of an eye”
The service ended with Barb giving this final address:
“When I think of my MOM two words come to mind: Lovely and
Grand, so let me take this opportunity to tell you that all
of you look lovely today and what a Grand day it is outside.
There are so many wonderful things I
could say about Mom,
but I think my daughter Amanda summed her up the best when
she said grandma was a confidante, a loving friend who was
non judgmental and always had a compliment for everyone.
She was someone who always looked to the
“Sunny Side Of The Street” one of the many songs she used to
Many of you will remember the cups of tea
you shared with her over the years and the family would love
to have you all join us for her send off tea after the
at Bonnie’s home. It’s about 10 minutes from here and we
have printed directions at the door for you. If anyone needs
a ride we will drop back to the funeral home after the
cemetery and make sure you have one.
Colonel, Sharon, Bonnie, Ken & I have been reminiscing and
sharing our memories about MOM! Sharon reminded
us all about her sitting in the rocking chair singing “It Is
No Secret” and I’d like to ask everyone to help us sing it
for her now.”
Barb invited everyone to join in singing this song because
it is the song that mom would sing to us as children as she
sat in her rocking chair (mom in her rocking chair is an
image I will never forget). We all stood. Barb’s
husband Steve turned on the music (we laughed because he hit
button #1 instead of #12 and we heard the beginning of
Amazing Grace but Barb immediately said “It’s OK, mom
wouldn’t mind” and I thought to myself
mom would have said “It’s OK Steve. That’s a nice song
too. We can go with that”. Steve then started
the music for “It Is No Secret What God Can Do” (Anne Murray
rendition) and because he had provided the lyrics on
hand-outs everyone joined in.
The chime of time rings out the news
Another day is through
Someone slipped and fell
Was that someone you?
You may have longed for added strength
Your courage to renew
Do not be disheartened
For I bring hope to you.
It is no secret what God can do
What He's done for others He will do for you
With arms wide open He'll pardon you
It is no secret what God can do.
There is no night for in His light
You'll never walk alone
Always feel at home
Wherever you may go.
No evil power can conquer you
While God is on your side
Just take Him at His promise
Don't run away and hide.
It is no secret what God can do
What He's done for others He will do for you
With arms wide open He'll pardon you
It is no secret what God can do...
We then left the chapel and the pallbearers grandsons Adam
Shortreed, John Shortreed, Jimi Clark, David Callen, Andrew
Callen and Chris Callen put mom’s casket in the stately
black hearse and we began the funeral procession.
We drove up Geddes St., turned right on Colborne St. and
left on Melville St. As we slowed and went past her
home I noticed that Colonel’s wife Linda had tied black bows
on the two white pillars and a floral arrangement was on
mom’s small table in the middle of the walkway – mom would
have been impressed with this regal touch!
Neighbour Mary Dunlop with her little grandson at her side,
stood at attention outside her home in honour of my mother.
We then arrived at the cemetery and Mr. Giddy and the
minister performed the committal service. Each of us
received a single flower and took turns covering the coffin
lid as our final gesture of farewell. I can still see
Shirley Ann laying her flower on top and touching the
tombstone under which mom will lie for eternity. We then
drove back to our house for a reception.
Although not everyone who attended the funeral could stay
for the reception, over seventy family and friends partook
of a lovely lunch prepared by Barb and her family, Sharon,
Linda, Jerry and many others who prepared trays of homemade
sandwiches, pickles, fruit, cheese and crackers and lots and
lots of desserts – just what mom prepared when she knew
guests were coming. The final stage of the funeral
ended as a party with smiles and laughs and good, good
I wrote this because my mother kept detailed written records
on everything that happened in her life since December 1976
when she first began keeping a diary. She made entries
from Dec. 27, 1976 to Dec. 9, 2009 three days before she
fell and broke her hip. I will cherish those diaries
As my mom told me last week – “Everyday,
something interesting happens to me”.
Love Always Bonnie