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Over the Rainbow: Honoring My Late Mother

Teresa D. Goins

As a little girl in the 60s, my family did not have cable – we got reception for only three or four local television stations. Yet, every year (without fail), Daddy made sure we watched our favorite movie, TheWizard of Oz; and in doing so, we established a beloved family ritual. With our individual bowls of popcorn, Momma and Daddy, and my two sisters and I piled up in our living room to watch Dorothy, the Tin Man, and the Wicked Witch of the West … together. Some fifty years later, in 2016, we carefully chose “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” * as one of the many songs to be played at momma’s funeral. Some in attendance may not have understood why a deeply devoted church family would choose a secular song for such a sacred occasion; but we had our reasons. With Mother’s Day 2021 on the horizon, I still remember Dorothy and her dog, and the lyrics that comforted us that day, as we mourned the passing of our sweet mother.

Somewhere, over the rainbow
Way up high
There’s a land that I heard of
Once in a lullaby.
Somewhere over the rainbow
Skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true.

A Distant Rainbow Rising Above A Barren and Desolate Horizon - American Baptist News
Photo by Frans Van Heerden from Pexels

Momma was certainly a dreamer, but the essence of her dreams centered around her love for and commitment to service. As a teenager, she dreamed of becoming a foreign missionary; but her mother (my maternal grandmother) – having lost her only son to World War II – could not bear to let my mother go. So, Momma settled at home, devoting her entire life to missionary service in her own church and community. Later, she married my dad, who became head deacon; and she, church secretary. Momma was also church pianist (before we came along to take her place); and she served as director for some 60 consecutive Vacation Bible Schools, leading countless children to Jesus. She also worked on the farm at home and became our country community’s resident babysitter. If she sang one lullaby over the years, she must have sung hundreds!

Someday, I’ll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far behind me.
Where troubles melt like lemon drops, away above the chimney tops
That’s where you’ll find me.

As most women do (especially mothers), Momma struggled with periodic worry; but she often recanted, “Why worry if you can pray?” She had a unique way of giving her worries to God – she always had a song in her heart! She sang when she cleaned the house. She sang when she cooked a meal. She was always singing, humming, or whistling … outside in her flower garden or while hanging our clean wet garments on the clothes line! She woke us up in the morning with “Rise and shine, for thy Light has come;” and I can still hear her soprano voice, above all others, singing congregational hymns at church! At age 90, while a resident in a rehab center because of a broken hip, she sang “How Great Thou Art” from her bed so loudly that we had to shut her door! Any worries Momma ever had dissipated, in a song.

Somewhere over the rainbow
Bluebirds fly
Birds fly over the rainbow
Why, then, oh why can’t I?

In the movie (immediately before Judy Garland sings), ‘Dorothy’ contemplates: “… some place where there isn’t any trouble. Do you suppose there is such a place, Toto? There must be! It’s not a place you can get to by a boat or a train. Behind the moon, beyond the rain … Somewhere over the rainbow …”

For my momma (and innumerable other mothers who have passed from this life to the next), her “Somewhere” was Heaven … and ours is, too. Heaven IS a land that we’ve heard of, within the walls of our Christian homes and churches. In Heaven, the skies MUST BE blue; and one day (like Momma), I WILL wake up where the clouds are far behind me. Way up high, my troubles WILL melt (like lemon drops) … at the feet of Jesus! Toward the end of her devoted life of service, Momma dreamed of heaven. God welcomed her there; and THAT’S where I will find her, when my life of service is over. “Somewhere over the rainbow,” I will see Momma again! “If happy little bluebirds fly beyond the rainbow, why, oh, why can’t I?”

* “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” (otherwise known as “Over the Rainbow”) is a ballad composed by Harold Arlen, with lyrics by E. Yip Harburg. The song was written for the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz and was sung by actress Judy Garland (Dorothy). The classic Academy Award-winning song has received numerous honors and awards over the past 75 years and precipitated the 1940 Decca Studio Album, The Wizard of Oz, produced by Bradley Flanagan and Marilee Bradford.

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