Tuesday, June 05, 2012

That Delicate Balance, Part Two

She really wanted him to play the piano.
Among the earliest guests to arrive
at the party,
she made her desires known
right away.
And of course, I am not surprised 
she felt that way.
She's been teaching him piano for 14 years.
He was 4 when he started,
and we were gathered to celebrate
his 18th birthday,
and his graduation from high school.
The graduate with his family.

How many people do you know who stick
with anything for that long? 

"He's been working on this one all year long,"
she said.
"I want to get him on tape,"
she said. 

But he resisted for quite a while.
As the sun began to set,
about sixty friends and family trickled
in the front door. 

The house looked lovely,
the yard, enchanting.
The chatter was friendly,
filled with laughter and warm reminiscence.
A slide show went round and round,
repeating on the big-screen television set,
featuring a lovely collection
of photos from day one until yesterday.
And it was there,
catching glimpses of the past,
that I felt the first sharpness,
the sudden movement of grief and loss
mixing its way right into the middle of 
celebration and joy. 

Our grandboy as a newborn,
held in the loving arms of his daddy.
His daddy who died almost four years ago. 

So much sadness for so long.
And so much joy and happiness, too.
All of it mixed up together in this journey we call life. 

Our daughter's new husband,
strong and kind and good -
such a gift to all of us,
a gift we are grateful for,
right down to our toes. 

But another milestone has come and gone.
And Mark was not here to celebrate with us.
That will never change.
And I imagine, we will always feel
that stab of recognition at such times,
that moment of searing sorrow. 

It was only a moment.
And soon, the joyful banter
gained volume in corners, at tables,
in the yard, in the house.

And then, cutting through the conversation,
I heard the strains of Chopin.
Familiar music to my ears,
music I heard in my own home, growing up.
Ballade Number One,*
technically difficult,
achingly beautiful. 

So I gently led my mother into the living room,
to listen as Luke played this glorious piece.
She sat in a chair placed right in front of the piano.
My father's piano,
the one he played for years and years. 

And I stood behind her, 
my hand on her shoulder. 

And together, we heard a miracle. 

The piano literally sang to us.
Of love and loss,
of hope and discouragement,
of hard work - hours and hours of hard work.
My dad's,
our own. 

The tears rolled down my cheeks as I
missed my dad,
as I missed Mark,
as I celebrated Luke,
as I thanked God for Karl,
as I thanked God for all of it.

Learning to play Chopin takes practice.
Practice, practice, practice. 

And learning to hold the tensions,
the mysteries of this life -
to hold them together,
to let them resonate with one another,
to acknowledge the pain and loss,
and to celebrate the gift and joy -
sometimes in the very same instant -
this takes practice, too. 

Life is hard.
Life is glorious.
Life is overwhelmingly difficult.
Life is radiantly free.
Life is ...

It's a dance with ever-changing tempo;
it's a song with shifting harmonies;
it's a tapestry,
a rich oil painting,
filled with color and with shadow. 

Thankfully, we don't have to navigate 
the dance floor on our own; 
we don't have to struggle to sing all the parts. 

We are given the gift of one another. 

And we are given the gift of Presence.
Loving, gracious Presence.
God - Father, Son and Spirit;
Creator-Redeemer-Counselor -
invites us into the ongoing dance of the Trinity,
the intricately, achingly beautiful song of the universe. 

In this life, we cannot yet see the edge of the dance floor,
nor can we hear the resolution of all the chords.
we can know the One who does.  

Thanks be to God.

"And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.  And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them."
Romans 8:27-28, The New Living Translation

*At the bottom of this post you will find a link to Vladimir Horowitz playing this piece. Horowitz was a hero to my dad - a genius on the piano, especially playing Chopin.
This is an older video of a live performance, but you will get a view of the
technical virtuosity needed to play this music. 
I was so moved that I did not think to shift my little Canon camera over to video
to record even a little bit of Luke playing!
Thanks so much, Luke, for those transcendent 10 minutes.

Joining with those same friends with this second part on balance...no buttons this time.
Michelle, Jennifer, Jennifer and Emily. And this time with Laura Boggess, too.