It is odd how the things in your life so often intertwine. When I bought my house late last year and moved in after returning from New Zealand, I noticed that nagging sense that something was missing. I quickly realized that that “something”, was a piano. I found myself longing to play again, on quiet nights, in moments when my emotions were running rampant, I longed for the comfort of my hands on those keys and to lose myself in the melodies I so loved to play. I thought myself rather silly to be honest, as I dreamed of having a baby grand piano to fill this space, I continued to look for an option however, to put a piano in my house.
Then one day while browsing ads on a local classified, I saw a man looking to give away his baby grand. Most often these pianos are beyond repair (or at least very costly to repair), but I got in touch with him, and I fell in love with the story behind this beautiful instrument. The piano was made in 1928 – purchased by the man’s mother in law, who was a concert pianist. In the years after her death, his wife had cherished and maintained it. Six months ago she passed and her husband was contemplating the need to downsize as he continued to age. I fell in love with the legacy, a beautiful instrument purchased by a woman who had a passion for playing it, kept and cherished by her daughter and then opportunely ending up in my hands to honor that legacy of love and passion that had touched her keys through the years. We made arrangements for the piano to be moved into my new home, and it fits as if the room were made for it. Years of moving and relative disuse however, had left her rather out of tune and in need of repair. The morning the piano tuner came to assess her I was a nervous wreck, I so longed for the ability to play and I so wanted to honor the amazing legacy, it was nerve-wracking to watch him work and wonder what his ultimate prognosis would be.
I tried to stay busy as he worked, but with a scene like this it is hard to remain distracted. The experience is rather like watching someone you care deeply for go through surgery. You pace, you ask for updates, you wonder and worry, but ultimately all you can do is wait and see. As I considered this analogy while he worked, it amazed me the parallels I found in the story of my piano and the work I currently do. I wanted to restore her to all her glory, I wanted to play her and enjoy her and keep her forever, but pianos and bodies both feel the movement of time. When he’d finished his work and put her back together, he explained to me that in the long run further repair would likely not be a good option, but to enjoy her now, play her and in time I would likely need to let her go. I sat and felt her keys under my fingertips, listened to her beautiful sound once again restored and wondered for a moment just how much time I might get from her.
There’s a beauty these days to seeing so many of my pursuits come together in odd parallels. The story of my piano is similar to one many of us face in losing loved ones. Healthcare can only do so much to “fix” us, as time goes on we must learn to cherish the time we have, however limited, knowing a day will come when we can no longer “fix” someone or something.
I’ve been enjoying every minute of playing my piano. Music is such a blessing to me and has always been a powerful force in my life in many ways.
Yesterday I was reading through recent articles I’d saved about end of life care and treatment. (I love how much the media is talking about end of life these days, it gives me such hope that we’re on the right track to re-open these conversations) I came across a film that’s currently screening across the country. Alive Inside (www.aliveinside.us)) is about the powerful use of music in re-connecting with withdrawn patients in nursing homes and care facilities. I sincerely recommend that you download and watch it, or better yet, check out a screening if there’s one close to you! Alive Inside follows the work of Dan Cohen – founder of Music and Memory as he works to promote the use of personal music to re-connect with nursing home patients (especially those with Alzheimer’s and dementia type diagnosis).
One of my first jobs was as a dietary aid in a local Alzheimer’s care facility. I remember learning back then that music was one of the last things that such patients lose. I would often play the piano for the residents during breaks and I always found it connected me to the residents. What Dan is doing with his project however, has far more reaching implications. Please watch the movie – there are clips and trailers on YouTube or the entire film is available for download on iTunes.
Again, I am blessed to watch the things I’ve done and elements of my life that have been so important to me come full circle in to this work. It reminds me at every turn that this is what I am meant to do.