August 28, 2013

When the Music Returns

Four weeks ago, my beautiful grandmother was promoted to Glory.  She shed the heavy things of this world and her faith finally became sight.  The heavenly chorus gained one heck of an alto; and Earth lost one incredible woman.  And, as C.S. Lewis said in the final book of the Chronicles of Narnia, The Last Battle, “The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.”  And what a sunrise she must be experiencing!

Three weeks ago, I cried as my grandfather, a tall, big, impressive retired Airforce Colonel, bid his last farewell to his life’s longest love as she was lowered into the ground.  This big, strong man never looked so small as he knelt beside her casket, laid a rose atop the polished, pale blue wood, and choked through his tears, “Goodbye, my love.  Thank you for loving me.”

Two weeks ago – and far sooner than I had thought – I sat on a piano bench for the first time in months. 

Everything about the piano reminds me of her.  When I walked into the house she shared with my grandfather for over 30 years for the first time since her death, I walked up to her beautiful grand piano and wept.  I lightly touched the keys and remembered song after song that she would play for us - once seated upon her lap, then seated by her side as we played duets, then seated by ourselves as she stood behind, beaming with pride.  I remembered the times that she would let us play her piano, but only after insisting that we wash our hands.  I remembered her taking the effort to turn off all other sounds – radio, tv, etc. – when we played her piano so she could hear every note.  And I remembered, whenever we’d hit a wrong note, she’d hum the correct note repeatedly until we found it.

I remembered all of the after-dinner sing-alongs around that piano.  I remembered her silly look of aggravation when her aging hands couldn’t find the notes as easily as they used to.  I remembered every Christmas gathered around that beautiful instrument as she played and we all sang, “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” and I cried to think of this year’s December 25 without her - and all the other ones to follow.  The memories flooded back with the tears as I barely touched those ivories and I wondered how life would ever be the same again and I knew it wouldn’t.

I knew, after seeing her piano sitting empty in their living room, that it would be a very long time before I could play again. She supported our every musical endeavor – attending every recital, buying music books that we would actually enjoy practicing, and even listening to my original compositions laced with teenaged angst – and calling it beautiful.  To me, the piano means her.  So, when I found myself at my in-laws’ house in the week following her funeral, I walked straight passed the beautiful piano in their office without even blinking.  For the first three days of our stay, I walked passed it.  Then, on Thursday, I sat at the bench; fifteen minutes later, I rose – not having played a single note.  Then, on Friday, August 16 – two weeks after the woman from whom I inherited my alto voice joined the alto section of the Heavenly chorus – I played the piano again.

Through my shaky hands and my tear-blurred vision, I plunked out the hymn, “It Is Well.”  There seemed no better song.  After all, this had been my anthem since the day I heard about her cancer diagnosis.  Verse after verse, I played.  After that, “The Entertainer,” a song that will forever remind me of her. Then, hymn after hymn, I realized an hour had passed and that I’d played the piano again.  And then I cried all over again.

I cannot sit before those keys without thinking of her, and I hope it is always that way.  I figured it would be months before I could play again.  But, music was so important to her; and, because of that, music is so very important to me.  What better way to honor her than to keep playing, to keep sharing the gift that she so selflessly shared with me (and SO many others).  Undoubtedly, my eyes will brim with tears each time I wed fingers to keys and play; but, it does not matter, for she loved music, I love music, and I am speechlessly proud to follow – even though hardly half as good – in her petite (yet very impressive) footsteps.


I miss her more than words can say.

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