August 12, 2017

The Piano Farewell: My Wife’s Passing is Now Complete yet the Music Lives On*


By Larry Peterson

“To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.”
St. Thomas Aquinas

Aleteia first ran an  article  about my wife, Marty, in January of 2016. By that time she had gone through four years of chemo treatments for Lymphoma, developed serious heart issues and had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease. She was also still recovering from a severely broken ankle which occurred in July of 2014.

Included among my archives in Aleteia are probably ten different articles about our journey together with her illness and cognitive decline. Some of those articles were about her and her piano. You might search them out if you like. I mention this because this will most likely be my last article about Marty. She passed away this past March and her piano remained behind. It was part of her, an extension if you will, for no matter how much of her memory vanished, every day she would still manage to play that piano.  The last few months of her life she probably sat, playing it,  two to three hours a day. It followed that after she was gone the piano stayed right where it had always been, the only difference being the silence resonating from it. 

                         Marty's Piano--The Music Lives On
The presence of her piano had extended the grief process for me. When you come in my front door it is right there, waiting to be brought to life. It was silent but when I looked at it I could see Marty sitting there playing. At times I could even hear the music. When I did it was so clear and vivid that at times I just had to leave the house. I even thought I was “losing” it.

After several weeks I covered the piano up with a large blanket. I placed a few knick-knacks on top and did my best to ignore it. The camouflage worked just a tiny bit but it was better than nothing. What to do? What to do? Here is where my faith comes in. Here is where I opened myself up and "let go and let God".

I thought of selling the piano but that thought evaporated quickly. There was no way I could "sell" Marty's piano. I wanted it to go to someone who could not afford one and who would be able to play. So I contacted my parish and after two or three weeks of "nothing" I forgot about it. So I just kept praying and waited.

Hospice had a bereavement group that had begun on May 10. I decided to attend. We met once a week for six weeks. I had discussed the piano with them. When we had finished our meetings we exchanged (there were only three of us left) our email addresses and phone numbers. On July 27, I received a facebook message from Sue, who was part of the bereavement group. She wrote that the music director at the Anona Methodist Church (who was also a piano teacher) might know a family that could use a piano.

I phoned the music director. Her name was Sandy and she told me that she knew a lady named, Sarah, who had a seven year old boy who was learning to play. They only had a keyboard as the family could not afford a piano. It was a perfect scenario. I asked Sandy if she would have Sarah call me and the next day she did. She was thrilled at the opportunity to get this piano for her son. And herein is when I fully understood  how God was in charge of this entire piano saga.

Marty began playing a piano at the age of six or seven. Sarah's son has begun playing at the age of six or seven. I thought about it and realized that it is possible that maybe 70 years from now, an older man might be playing a piano somewhere. He would have learned to play on the same piano that a woman named Marty played her last song on 70 years earlier.  In essence, the music coming from that piano had never stopped and now spanned four generations. And yes, the possibility exists that it may continue well after he is gone. Who knows, right?

 I have absolutely no doubt that this was "meant to be" and  here is why; the piano will be picked up and delivered to its new owner on August 10. That is the Feast Day of (this only happens once a year) St. Lawrence, who is my patron Saint (talk about messaging).  Having Faith (as quoted by Aquinas above) is a beautiful thing. My prayers were, without a doubt, answered. 

One final thought; I can see Marty looking down with that great big smile of hers stretched from ear to ear. She is watching as a little boy sits at her piano and fingers the very keys she had fingered only six months earlier.  And, as is God’s way of things, life goes on. On occasion, so does His music.
  *This article also appeared in Aleteia on 8/11/2017
                          copyright©Larry Peterson 2017