It was beautiful and rated G. This evening turned out to be about Mary Ann and my relationship – at least in my thoughts and feelings. The pathway that led me to that experience was a bit circuitous.
I went to church this morning, wondering how it would feel on Mother’s Day, a very fitting celebration of Mothers. The High School Youth of the Congregation led the Service, some 25 or so of them. They sang and spoke beautifully. The Service began with three 7th Graders talking about the faith experiences they have had in their short lifetimes. I was blown away by the maturity and thoughtfulness of each one. One had lost her Mother to Cancer not long ago, another had an experience that revealed a boldness in his faith life that touched all of us, a third had much to say about Grandparents place in her life. Having taught 7th Graders for most of the forty years of ministry, I understand how hard it is for them to look thoughtfully at such things and then find the courage to speak publicly about them.
After church I drove to the Kansas City area to spend time with Son Micah, Becky and Granddaughter Chloe. As always, it was a good day. We ate together, then I showed the pictures from the New Zealand part of the trip, which is the only part I have started putting together. We had a SKYPE session with Daughter Lisa, Denis and Granddaughters Abigail and Ashlyn during the afternoon. It was a way for all of us to spend this first Mother’s Day without Mary Ann together.
The day was good, but the trip back began to include some more thoughtful moments about Mary Ann. It started with my intention to try to make a concert at the Cathedral this evening. I remembered that there would be a fellow there who is very active in supporting the music program at the Cathedral. He lost his wife a couple of years before Mary Ann died. He was Mary Ann’s Dermatologist. My mind went to those visits when we struggled to get her in to that very handicapped/wheelchair unfriendly office. He did great work, but the office was located in an ancient building.
I remembered Mary Ann sitting, hunched over in that wheel chair, then moving to the surgical chair where Basal Cell Skin Cancers were removed. She endured it all without complaint, even the time we had to return a day or two later and spend hours having the stitches removed and new ones put in when a medication she was taking interfered with the clotting factor in her blood. After the concert I got a Turtle Sundae at G’s Frozen Custard, as Mary Ann and I had often done. I remembered how hard it was for her to eat it, later my need to feed her. I remembered very painfully, how impatient I sometimes was with the messiness as it sometimes ended up all over her and the car. The pain of those memories remains vivid.
The concert itself provided a very powerful insight into Mary Ann’s and my relationship. It turned out to be a healing moment even with the painful memories as bookends.
The concert was Chamber Music played by the Elaris Duo (violin and cello) and Kyoko Hashimoto (piano). The pieces were moving, played with technical ability more than adequate to the task. The virtuosity was breathtaking. The quality was far beyond what would be expected in a community our size. The pieces were played with deep emotion. The power of the music was overwhelming. All of us there knew we had witnessed something remarkable.
With all that said, there was a dynamic that spoke powerfully to me, a dynamic that emerged from the combination of the music and the relationship of the musicians. The Violinist and Cellist are married. When ensembles play music together, there are non-verbal signals through which they communicate with one another. It may be the nod of a head, a glance, or one simply looking at the other intently enough to pick up what is needed or when it is needed.
Those non-verbal communications revealed an intimate connection. They played as one. Sometimes one would play the first few notes in a line of music and the other would continue that line with not so much as a fraction of a second break in the movement – two people, one line of music. It struck me just how deep their relationship must be having such moving music as a mechanism for drawing them together. It is hard to imagine how meaningful it would be to share something wound so deeply into the core of a person’s being as music. They are professional musicians. It is what their lives are about.
What struck me as I watched them was the non-verbal communication on which Mary Ann and I depended. As time went by, there were fewer and fewer clear verbal tools available to determine what the needs were. There were times when I needed to know what Mary Ann wanted or needed when she had no way to communicate those needs, sometimes when she was not even able to identify those needs. The result was that we were drawn together in ways that would not be so under normal circumstances.
This part is going to sound a little weird, but so be it. It gave me great comfort to think that in some way, Mary Ann and I were making our own kind of music together. We were negotiating days with a certain amount of grace that did not come from the circumstances but from the way we responded to them together. We were living fully when it appeared that life was being stolen from us. Yes, at times I was grumpy and she was stubborn. Good music can often include an occasional dissonance. Nonetheless, there was a beauty in how we lived. The music tonight was filled with passion and emotion, so was Mary Ann and my life together, especially the last and most difficult years
The Performers tonight gave me a gift, just a moment of healing mitigating some painful memories, a way to understand the last few years with a new appreciation for the beauty of Mary Ann’s and my life together. In some sense, we made music.