Grief Comes in Waves

I’ve learned grief isn’t something you get over, it’s something you learn to live with. You never know when a new wave is going to strike without warning.

My guilty pleasure is The Voice, and I usually watch it when I’m walking on my treadmill. Today I watched the Top 13 perform, and when I heard contestant Marybeth Byrd was going to sing the beautiful, heartbreaking “Go Rest High on That Mountain” by Vince Gill, I was immediately transported back to the days following my father’s death. I was one of the family members giving a eulogy, and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get through it.

Every morning and evening that I drove his Subaru Forrester the 30 minutes to and from town, I had this song and one other on repeat so I could embrace and settle into the grief. It helped. I did some gut-wrenching, ugly crying and was able to deliver the eulogy my father deserved.

Which brings me to today, nearly two years later. When Marybeth’s tribute package rolled, she spoke of her beloved Grandfather who passed the night before she left for her blind audition. Marybeth no sooner began the song when grief rolled through me again. I damn near fell off my treadmill.

I recently attended a book reading by my friend Gordon M. Berg, author of Harry and the Hurricane. The book details the true account of his seven-year-old father living through the Great Miami Hurricane of 1926. His father rarely spoke of his experience, and Gordon only learned the details after his death, when his mother told him.

Gordon ended his talk imploring us to ask our loved ones “What is the worst thing that’s ever happened to you, and how did you get through it?” That is one of the many questions I wish I had asked my father.

Who is someone you’d like to ask that question? Do it…before it’s too late.

The Allure and Hazard of Thing-Naming

I turned my rental cello in yesterday.

Growing up I didn’t name inanimate objects and I’m not sure I knew people did that until my daughter named her first car. Turns out a lot of people name their possessions.

At one point over the past year and a half, I remember giving her a name. I was attracted to her curvy, voluptuous figure and she seduced me with her deep sexy voice. We began our journey slowly, my fingers unsure and my hands untrained. With practice and discipline, we began to make beautiful music together and my partner called me her Cello Bella.

I turned in my rental cello yesterday and was caught by surprise when tears came to my eyes. I hadn’t expected that. I had made peace with my decision to focus my limited time on writing. As I caressed her one last time and expressed my gratitude for being my musical companion for the past year and a half, I wracked my brain trying to remember what I named her.

“You took good care of it,” the technician said after the inspection.

“Thank you, she was my baby,” I replied.

After finishing up the paperwork, I drove away and was glad I couldn’t remember her name because leaving her would have been that much harder.

I’ll Never Be Yo-Yo Ma

As I prepared to see Yo-Yo Ma at the University of Michigan last evening, I reflected on my own cello journey.

A year and a half ago, I attended a high school music reunion, 40+ years after graduating. The weekend was a magical mix of joyful music making, renewing old friendships, and creating new memories.

I’ve always loved the deep, resonant tone of the cello but having never played a stringed instrument, I’d thought my cello ship had sailed. During the weekend I met a classmate who had taken up the cello later in life. I was intrigued. Could I do it? Could I live in my beginner brain being the recovering perfectionist that I am? She said I absolutely could and encouraged me to rent a cello and find the best teacher I could afford.

Two months later, after pestering a highly recommended teacher, there I was, rental cello in hand starting lessons. He had agreed to take me on a trial basis, which worked for me because I wasn’t sure I live up to the commitment of daily practice or even whether I’d be able to play anything resembling a recognizable tune. After two weeks, we were all in.

Playing the cello is kind of like rubbing your stomach with one hand, patting your head with the other while you’re running and singing. There is so much is going on all at once, not the least of which was reading the Bass clef, my biggest challenge. I found myself dedicated and committed, slowly and patiently working my way out of Twinkle, Twinkle hell through Suzuki Book 2.

My cello adventure culminated by playing in a studio recital, in front of his students (18 and under), their parents, and grandparents (who were my age). It was both nerve wracking and exhilarating. I heard from more than one attendee that they were inspired by my performance, which was the icing on the cake.

Hearing Yo-Yo Ma last night made me a little sad that I gave up my cello lessons when I became a newly committed writer in November. With a day job and a long commute, there just weren’t enough hours in the day.

No, I’ll never be Yo-Yo Ma or as good as any second year student, but I’m grateful my cello teacher took a chance on me. I will forever treasure my very own cello journey.