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The Piano Recital

Sunday, May 8, 2011
This was a weekend of firsts.  Yesterday was the piano recital for all three of our children, and today, Mother's Day. (I will write about Mother's Day next.)  For ten years, we have had a piano recital the day before Mother's Day.  Yesterday was the tenth piano recital that I have attended to listen to our children perform.  This was Mia's tenth and final recital, also referred to as her Senior recital.  I believe it was Julia's seventh and Michael Anthony's fifth.  Piano lessons have never been an option in our home.  It is just considered a part of their education through their Senior year.  Michael took piano lessons from his grandmother when he was young and had some of his recitals in the same museum as our children have theirs. They have, also, always competed in the Bach Festival every February.  I was remembering yesterday that Michael had driven each one of them back and forth for their competition time this past February, just two weeks before his accident.  He was so proud of their Superior awards.

I was prepared yesterday in knowing how difficult listening to them play was going to be for me.  Their focused practice time for the recital is always March and April.  This year they had a major set back.  They had to miss some lessons and went weeks without any practice at all.  Julia would practice more than the other two because it appeared to be therapy for her.  Her song was called Sunflowers and Wheatfields, by Catherine Rollin.  It is a very beautiful piece which evokes many emotions when hearing it.  It sounds like a score for a movie theme song.  Sometimes, I would cry just hearing it play across the house.  The piece that Mia chose this year was Moonlight Sonata, by Beethoven.  Her piece evoked much emotion as well.  It swells and builds throughout the piece and feels like a very sad song.  In fact, my brother in law played it at their grandmother's funeral.  Michael Anthony played Minuet in G Major, by Bach, which is a happy piece... very fitting for his personality.  They all three pleaded with me about three weeks ago to let them drop out of the recital because they felt that they would not be prepared.  All the pieces had to be memorized and none of them knew their pieces in their entirety yet.   Mia's was four pages, Julia's was three and Michael's was two.... and they were all difficult.  I knew in my heart they could do it and I knew that it would be a good process for them to work on them to perfection. Julia was concerned that she might not emotionally be able to make it through her piece. She knew her piece but was concerned that she may feel overwhelmed with the need to cry while she was playing.  Her whole personality changed in the few days leading up to the recital.  She was feeling the magnitude of the moment long before it happened. Mia was not only stressed because of the piece itself, but because it was her Senior recital and the audience would be expecting something great.  She was supposed to be placed last in the performance program, but her teacher, knowing the burden that it was becoming, placed her third from the end to help lift some of the pressure. It helped.  I asked all of them to play for me this year.  This would be their gift to me.  I needed them to play these pieces and they needed to play them.  I saw it as part of this grieving process.  We needed to feel it, and my, did we.

As I was putting on my makeup to get ready to go the recital, I was already fighting back the tears.  The weight was getting heavier and heavier.  I was not sure if I was going to be able to contain myself.  Sitting through that proud, parenting moment alone was going to  be extremely hard. I began to pray aloud for the children as I was putting on my makeup.  I prayed that they would play for the Lord.  I prayed that they would play with beauty and grace, using the gifts that God had given them and sharing them with all who were present. I felt lighter after having sent my prayers up to God.  Deep breaths were becoming necessary.  They had to go early, so they all loaded up in Mia's car and left, along with my Mom.  This left me alone in a very quiet house. This small amount of quiet time was good mental time for me.  It was the beginning of another first.  When I arrived, they were all three sitting side by side in the holding area.  The girls looked so beautiful, mature, and peaceful.  Michael Anthony was handsome in his Sunday best clothes and was sitting calmly beside Julia.  I kissed each one of them on the cheek and told them how proud I was of them... no matter what.  I was proud of them just for doing it.

I was armed with plenty of tissues and sat down where we could see them clearly.  I gave my brother video instructions so that I could focus on the music.  I listened to about 17 other children, then it was time for my first child.  Michael Anthony strolled in the room looking so handsome and sure. Where was my little boy?  He sat down to play and made a small mistake shortly into the piece, and then, without any hesitation, started over and made it through the entire thing.  While he played I felt myself swell with pride.  This was a young man, almost 13 years old, playing piano intensely focused on the music.  The same boy that loves to play in the neighborhood air soft wars, ride bikes, catch big fish, shoot guns, build with legos, and play tennis.  He was living a balanced life.... just like his Dad.  Music and Boy Scouts gave him a well rounded life, sports has not been the end all.  He stood and took his bow.  I felt a sigh of relief and could not help but smile at my young man.  I had a break of about 6 people to gear myself up again.  Then came Julia.

She entered wearing a hot pink, floor length, flowing skirt and I knew by the way she carried herself that she was going to nail it.... and that she did.  I made it through about the first 10 seconds of her piece, and then the tears began to flow.  It was beautiful, she was beautiful, and the music successfully transported everyone who was there to a lovely, beautiful memory.  I was crying so hard that I could barely catch my breath.  It was harder because I had to keep it all quiet.  I was in awe of the strength they each had to perform.  I was grieving for Michael, for their father, for our Renaissance man who would have relished in the moment, who would have shed tears of joy and pride himself, had he been there.  Her playing flowed and she touched the keys with gentleness, knowing the emotion behind each note.  She played it to the end and took her bow with a short glance at me.  I was relieved that I had two more people before Mia's.  I was a mess.

Mia walked in and I realized that she now looked like a college girl.  She sat down on the bench, and my memory was suddenly flooded with visions of her through the years sitting on that same bench in all of the special dresses that were chosen for the occasion.  When she was younger, they were all hand made dresses.  Now, she wore a soft green dress she chose from JCrew.   I was picturing her long hair pulled back with a ribbon when she was younger.  As soon as she started playing, I felt her peace and confidence.  She knew what to do.  She took her time and moved with the mood of the music.  I felt like I had cried myself out on Julia's piece and sat for awhile simply soaking up the moment while Mia played.... then the tears returned.   Where had the time gone?  Is this really her Senior recital?  How did she learn to play like that?  She looked so mature. She had pulled it all together, against all odds.  She overcame.  This is our first child and what a tender heart she has.  She touches the keys like they are old friends.  She was in charge.  She had decided that if she made a mistake, the only ones that would know would be me and her piano teacher.  She took some creative liberties and no one was the wiser.  She flowed through this 8 minute piece and moved all over the keys with constant control and a perfect touch to bring the gravity of the piece to all of us. Her final notes brought the feeling of completion... it is finished.  She stood up to take her bow and gave me a loving smile.

I wanted to run down the isle and pick them all up in my arms and tell them how amazing they were,  and how proud I was of their accomplishment.  I waited.  I was not the only one crying in the crowd.  Most everyone there knew of their loss and what a hard day it was for all of us.  One woman told me afterwards that she was supporting me with prayer while they were playing.  There were many hugs and kisses afterward.  They were beaming.  The first of many accomplishments without Michael there to share in the moment.  They strengthened me with their strength that day.  They strengthened me with their gift.  They strengthened me with the beauty they bring to this world.  Michael would have been filled with pride.


Jennifer Campbell Carpenter-Clause Says:
May 8, 2011 at 7:11 PM

This post brought tears to my eyes...music is so full of emotion in itself...Jene, I am praying for you and your children with every post I read. I can't imagine how hard this piano recital was for you...how amazing and strong your kids are and you have helped them be that way....Happy Mother's Day...I can't imagine a better present than seeing your kids play and be so strong!

Anonymous Says:
May 10, 2011 at 7:06 AM

I want to share a few comments after attending the kids' piano recital. It was excellent, and so moving, and I am so proud of them, too.

For the last few weeks, I’ve had the privilege of spending some one on one time with Julia and Michael, taking them to their music lessons and being the chauffeur during lunch hours on Wednesdays. Mia would drive herself to her piano lessons and come out to chat for a minute as Julia went in, and then Michael and I would talk until Julia came out and they swapped places, and we’d all talk back and forth and in between. We've been kidding around and talking about things each week as they prepared for their recital. They were ready, and I knew they would do well. And they were definitely prayed for!

Saturday, they were all so confident and somber…there was a quiet serenity on each of their faces. Michael Anthony has really matured in these last few months. He looked so handsome and grown up, and played so much better than I even expected. He played so smoothly, looking like a young professional in his dress clothes, his hands moving across the keys. He reminded me of his handsome father. The minuet was perfect for him to play, and he carried himself well the whole time. And Julia is just amazing. What a lovely young woman. The piece she played seemed to be the most beautiful piece of music I had ever heard, while I was sitting there listening and being carried away by the melody, tears streaming down my cheeks. We were ALL crying. It was so expressive and peaceful, swelling and flowing along. I was thinking of Michael standing in this open field of flowers in heaven, and Julia running across it and into his arms, with him swinging her around in the air. What sweet communion, reunited with her precious Daddy. And then when Mia came out, got settled and began to play, all the sadness was brought back and dealt with...the shocking news, the extreme loss, the deep emotions stirring inside, the feeling of chaos and darkness welling up and pouring out of a heart crying out to God. Such tremendous pain and sorrow...but then it was finally complete...and all was well, and she stopped, and stood and smiled. Wow.

THAT was my experience. What talented "kids". What a great God. What a gift we have in music, in family, in Him.

I love you all so much.

Aunt Shelli

Rene Says:
May 12, 2011 at 9:25 AM

Thank you so much for sharing this. I would love to hear all of your children play. Perhaps you could put some of the video from the recital on your blog so everyone could hear their talent. I am so proud of you and them for following through with this. The easy choice would have been to miss this recital, and not one person would have blamed any of you. In fact, everyone would have understood. Instead you all pressed on and the Lord is so pleased. He shows up best in our weakest moments and from your description of each of their performances, He showed Himself faithful that day! Again, you have made Michael proud. I continue to pray for all of you many times through the day and night, whenever the Lord places you in my thoughts and on my heart.
Much love, Rene'

Joylynn Bethea Says:
May 12, 2011 at 11:44 AM

Once again,Jene`,YOU nailed it. I heard the music, saw the sights, and felt the emotions in incredible ways. The event was amazing and you "transposed it" into the world for so many other people. I can't help but believe that Michael enjoyed it...not necessarily "would have".

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