Monthly Archives: August 2017

My Mother and I Shared a Common Love of Theatre

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With my mom, Willie Cork, 2016

These remarks were delivered at my mother’s funeral on August 23, 2017. She died on August 19 at the age of 79 from cancer.

All that I am comes from my parents, and although there were some challenging times growing up, with many moves from state, to state, to state, through it all my mother remained strong, focused on providing for her family.

My mother and I shared a love of musical theatre, and beginning in 1989 with The Music Man she came to every one of my shows in Connecticut, including my most recent, a performance in Will Rogers’ USA at my church in Glastonbury last summer.

In 2012 I packed everything in my car and took the show to a few libraries in Florida so that my mom and dad could see it. My dad was my roadie, and as his memory was already failing, each of the three times he saw it was a new experience for him.

A few lines from Will that I think relate to my mother very well:

Now I don’t give advice folks, but boy if I did, I would just say you’re only on this Earth a very short time. For heaven sakes, have a few laughs folks, and don’t take things too serious, especially yourselves.

Just live your life so you wouldn’t be ashamed to sell the family parrot to the town gossip, that’s all.

Listen here, you may not see things my way, folks. Why in heaven’s name should you? I may not see things your way. Why should I? That’s America, I believe.

Another family favorite is the musical Man of La Mancha, which Jason and I appeared in together at the Strand Theatre in Seymour, Connecticut. Above the theatre is the Knights of Columbus Hall which was our dressing room. Often during shows downstairs we could hear the dances going on upstairs. One time a polka band was playing, “In Heaven There is No Beer” during a dramatic moment on stage. After her death I learned that my mom’s mother, who we called, “Ma,” went to dances there when she was young. She often said, “I wish I had been a singer and a dancer.”

One of my mom’s favorite shows was Les Miserables, and most of the time that I rode in her car the soundtrack was playing. I’ll always remember her when I hear these words:

Do you hear the people sing, singing the song of angry men?
It is the music of a people who will not be slaves again.
When the beating of your heart echoes the beating the beating of the drums, there is a life about to start when tomorrow comes!

Words like these remind me of the power of theatre to lift us up when we face challenges, and to find connections with the challenges of others. My nickname is, “The Unsinkable Cork,” and I think that my mom was unsinkable too.

I also thought of my mom this week when Jerry Lewis died one day after she did, and the way that he closed each of his annual telethons, with an anthem from the Rogers and Hammerstein musical, Carousel. I think we all need a little courage this week. My mother had it in spades.

When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark
At the end of a storm
There’s a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark
Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown
Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never walk alone
Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never walk alone