Sunday, February 13, 2011

Pleasant Surprise After Sad Month : My Long Lost Performance for My Aunt

It's been more than two years since I've posted anything on this blog. I've been working at two different jobs during that time. I did post some things on my Agile From The Ground Up blog about software development though. I'm tired of having different sites though.

The importance of writing strikes me now more so than ever. I can ill afford to not write.

This time, it comes a month after my Aunt Kara has passed away after a long battle against Lou Gehrig's Disease, A.L.S. I was in the hospital with her along with her brother Kevin and her sister Kelly and her mother, my grandmother, Barbara. It was the first time I've been present when someone left our world. While I don't wish anyone to prematurely face a situation like that, I am extremely grateful that I was there with her, and my family.

It is not really possible, in words, to express the human emotions that I felt when I saw her take her last breath. But, it is something I will never, ever, forget.

Witnessing Kara's life end, it's correct to say I left that room with my own life changed, and in ways that I am still trying to decipher. I will write more about that later.

Tonight ended on a very uplifting note for me, however. After Kara passed away, we had a small memorial for her at her and Lew's house. While with Kara, I told her that I had wished I could perform a song on piano for her. She could not speak any longer. I bought a new digital piano and I performed at the memorial and dedicated it to her.

Still, I felt bad that I had never gotten the chance to share it with her. The song was U2's "October". When I was 10 she introduced me to their music, some 23 years ago.

Tonight I played piano for the first time in more than a week as I've been recovering from a skin eczema. Playing that song again reminded me of Kara, of Lew and Aiden, and of my entire family for that matter. When she was in the hospital bed, I promised her that I would help Aiden appreciate new music and that I'd play piano for him, as well as teach him to play someday. After I performed, he ran to the piano with his daddy and began to play the keys. It was only later that I found a wonderful video Kara had taken and posted on her blog of him playing on a toy piano at age 2. He loved it so much even then! I can't wait to play for him again and visit again and to someday help him learn to play the instrument in remembrance of his mommy and for his own spiritual enjoyment.

Playing again tonight with my hand healing, that promise began to take on physical reality, not just a mental conviction. Playing music with a purpose feels like the true meaning of life. What else can groups of people do or enjoy together so thoroughly and so magically?

The joys and sorrows of this life are many, that we all know. It takes a lot of effort just to live each day.

But, to play music from your soul, to revel in even just a few moments, is to take a glimpse at eternity -- it is as though music exists independent of time, and time slows down. If motion is movement through space and time, music is movement through soul despite time.

Tonight I found on a seldom used computer a file called "October-Dedication.mp3", and another named "October-Performance.mp3". I opened my email and searched for the first one's name. Sure enough, I found an email that I sent in July of 2009, just before Kara had surgery to have a feeding tube put into her body.

I had performed for her after all. The weight of everything happening in December and January had made this memory evaporate from me.

Here is my short letter to her and her response to me:

Please listen to the attached piano performance. This is, so far, my best recorded rendition of the 1981 U2 song "October". It is my goal to perform this piece sometime at a future UUCA open-mic night. My friend Tony Knuppel organized one last month and plans to do it again. Many people performed piano, guitar, and vocals. I read aloud an essay I wrote that is currently the #1 peer-rated answer to the question "How many stars are in the universe?" You can read it here:

Since I was a child I saw the big piano in the house downstairs and I wanted to learn, but all I did was press on the keys. I saw you buy an electronic one some years back and I wanted to learn then too.

And now, this is something I am learning, week by week, very very slowly, and just a tiny bit at a time -- enough to play one song at a time that matters to me.

You were the first person to buy me a U2 album, The Joshua Tree, when I was probably 10 years old. For more than 20 years, their widely varied styles have been the "soundtrack" of my mind, and their spiritually yearning lyrics and music have at many times been a comfort for me.

I hope this brief performance is in some small way also comforting to you.

Rest assured, when I do perform this live, I will dedicate it to you, and we will record it. -- I have lots of practicing to do because I don't want to mess it up!

love always,


Josh, your audio recordings were beautiful. You play very well! And your memories of things we did together mean so much to me. I always wished to enrich your life. If I have succeeded even a little, my reward is the treasured memories you keep. I'll never forget the spellbound little boy who met Johnny Cash. I watched you glow in the experience, and I told myself "well done Auntie, well done."

Love you,

Sent from my iPhone

Tonight I feel fine to sleep, saying "well done Rabbit, well done."

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