Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A birthday, a deathday, and bluegrass for both

Lent has been a rather busy one this year at the "Pillars" household. As many of you may know, I lost my beloved father-in-law 3 weeks ago. What was so poignant about this event is that he died on our eldest daughter's birthday. Needless to say, the days before her birthday and afterward were not very festive, but rather somber and busy as we had to stop everything and travel 2 days to Houston for all the arrangements. Rebecca seemed OK about it all as she practiced her violin music she planned to play at the funeral and again at the graveside service. She has such a "poker-face" as she regularly performs at both parishes in our town, and at parties, family gatherings, etc. It seemed as if to her this was just another Mass or event that she was asked to play for.

Her love for the violin, especially bluegrass music was inspired by her grandfather's family reunions we attended each year. At the ripe old age of 4, she was introduced to the music by the Quibey girls' 45 minute performance of everything bluegrass, from "Turkey in the Straw to "Orange Blossom Special". Rebecca ran up to the stage and sat with open mouth and eyes as big as half-dollars. For a year after that day, she talked about playing the violin until finally we agreed to let her take lessons.

A few years into her violin lessons, she came to me in tears saying, "I don't want to practice anymore! I hate suzuki music!" This is a method Dr. Suzuki put together for teaching music at a very young age all the way up to adulthood. It is based on classical music, as it is the foundation for all other music forms. Knowing her natural talent, we desparately searched for a fiddle teacher and found Pattie. She is a great teacher and took Rebecca and got her back on track with her instrument. Within a year, she was playing "Old Joe Clark", Orange Blossom Special, "Turkey in the Straw", and "Soldier's Joy" like they were her old best friends.

That first year visiting my inlaws since moving to North Carolina was great, especially since Rebecca planned on playing for her grandparents all her new music. Both her grandparents, you see, are country dancers, square dancers, and "Grand Marchers" from way back, so this was going to be a great surprise for them.

The night she played for them, my father-in-law weeped through most of it. He had had a stroke a couple of years ago at this point and emotions were unleashed easily. At first, I thought she should stop playing, but my sister-in-law insisted she continue (all this communique done quietly without much notice). From then on, my father-in-law wanted to hear her play each time we visited, they loved the "concert."

At the funeral, Rebecca played "Lover's Waltz" by Jay Ungar and at the graveside service, she played "Tennessee Waltz" and as the veterans' flag was being folded, she played "Faded Love." She was just lovely and played perfectly despite the circumstances and her young age of 13. I wondered how she was doing inside as all the events were conducted, for she was so together...beyond her years, I thought. Both my knight and I were impressed with her. At the finish of her last song, I saw her quickly and quietly fall apart. Large "crocodile tears" streamed down her face without a sound or motion. I leapt from my chair with kleenex in hand ready to wipe away her sorrow and pain. There had been no time to weep before.

Many of the family members wondered and spoke to Rebecca about how sad it was that her grandfather died on her birthday. Someone said to her, "That sure wasn't fair was it!?" She didn't say much. I thought about this and remembered how impressed I was when Norman Vincent Peale, the great author/speaker of "The power of positive thinking" and "Expect a Miracle" died on Christmas Eve, some years ago. That both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, fathers of our country, died on the same day hours apart on the 4th of July. My very own great uncle, Fr. Sam Haughton, died during the consecration of the Eucharist at Midnight Mass, Christmas eve many years ago. There are countless other death dates of coincidences that are only known by those touched by their timing.

Explaining to my daughter that this was not a sad coincidence, I told her that soon after we had her, I had to go back to work, so pawpaw and mema volunteered to care for her while I worked. The joy they had, the fun she had! For nearly a year, they cared for her Monday through Friday. I can't count the pictures of my father-in-law and Rebecca that we have during this time. So, when it came time for him to go on to be with Jesus, her special day was the best pick. A glimmer of brightness came over her face as she realized what I had said.

As our daughter celebrated her 13th year of life, her grandfather celebrated his first day in eternity. I think Rebecca is OK with that.


Jen said...

This is a beautiful post. My uncle died this past July on his son's tenth birthday...our ways are not God's ways. And I'm positive He has a "Grand plan" on coinciding the days of birth with the days of birth into eternity!

EC Gefroh said...

What a beautiful, beautiful post.

Barb Szyszkiewicz said...

That is beautiful and sweet. And what an honor for Rebecca to serenade Grandpa on his path to heaven.

Stina said...

Beautiful and touching. Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

This was a beautiful post. My grandmother died on what would have been my grandfather's 100th birthday. This was so perfect -- she never forgot anyone's birthday. He had died on Super Bowl Sunday 7 years before. That was also perfect for the ultimate football fan!

Texas Mom

Ebeth said...

What blessings these are!! There IS something to this "coincidence"!!

Thank you to all of you for your kind words and sharing of wonderful events of your own!