I have signed up for a 1/2 marathon (in San Diego!). My friend, and fellow leukemia widow, Ann Marie signed up first. We have since decided to form a team (Joy4Jay&Jared) and run together in memory and honor of our loves lost to this cancer. We will train and run with Team in Training, which fundraises for LLS (the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society). The run is on May 31st!
Today, as I was doing my training — on the elliptical because, well, it’s been pretty wintry here lately — I was watching a program on the local PBS station about Robert Kennedy. It included footage of RFK’s speech in Indianapolis, the day that MLK was assassinated. It was a brief speech, which he prepared himself. In it, he quoted the Greek poet Aeschylus. I’ve been thinking about it all day and wanted to write somewhere for safekeeping. So I share it with you:
“He who learns must suffer
And even in our sleep, pain that cannot forget
Falls drop by drop upon the heart,
And in our own despair, against our will,
Comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.”
We are the JOYteam and here is our Team in Training page if you’d like to see some pictures of our families and consider a donation to LLS.
Last Friday, August 8th, a dear friend and close colleague of mine died of esophageal cancer. He was just a few years older than me. This afternoon, many of his students, co-workers, and friends from the GFS community gathered, in the manner of Friends, to sit with our loss, grieve together and share. These are some thoughts that I was moved to share.
When I first began teaching at GFS Duane taught private guitar lessons. As time passed, we both took on more classes, and our paths crossed more frequently. Eventually we spent a considerable amount of time teaching and planning and making music together. Duane liked to come rummage around in the storage closet in my classroom. It’s an abyss treasure trove of assorted music manuscripts and books, donated to GFS long ago. He would always come out having found something amazing. No one else had the time or passion to dig around in there. One day he came out with two green hard-bound collections: Beethoven’s nine symphonies for 4-hands piano. He was so excited. We sat down immediately and after trying a bit of no. 5 and no. 3, decided on the Pastoral, no. 6. We had so much fun playing it together. At that point, my piano chops were better than Duane’s – but not for long. Duane could do anything. New instrument? No problem. New language? How about 3 of them…simultaneously. Duane didn’t just ‘kind of’ learn to play the piano. Duane pursued the piano with extraordinary diligence, and in a few short years he was accompanying the 7th and 8th grade choruses with me.
I had big plans for Duane. When my own kids would inevitably ask to study drums and guitar in a few years, I was going to say: “Well, I know just the guy.” Duane was not just any guy, he was the best guy.
We live each day with the underlying assumption that the people in our lives will always be there. Without consciously thinking about it, we have plans and dreams that include them and we expect that they will be some of the people who pour into our children’s lives and enrich our own. Now, those expectations hang in mid-air, plans with no possibility of realization. While we are left with many happy memories and wonderful stories about a full and vibrant life, we are also left with grief: reconciling the way you thought things would be with the way things are. That will be an increasingly difficult reality to face as September approaches.
This year Jared family is coming to Philly for the Walk. My mom is also coming up. We will walk together for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night fundraiser. Please consider making a donation through my team page in Jared’s memory. I hope to to raise $1,500 for LLS. If you’d like to come walk with us, let me know. If you’d like to help raise funds, join the team! Thanks!
If the adage is true, I have grown quite fond of blog-posting this year…
I just looked back and I haven’t posted since November of 2011. That’s almost an entire year. Not that you’ve all lost track of me. Facebook keeps many of us linked in some way.
Mostly, when not working or being with the children, I was reading loads of articles and books and writing research papers. Just this August, I completed my coursework for a Master’s Degree in Music Education from Boston University (graduation date September 25 2012). January-April of this year (thesis project intensive) are a total blur. I took my very last class, while in France this summer. Maybe I should write a few back-dated posts with pictures about our many summer adventures (minus the studying, of course)!
Noah’s about to be 5 and Caleb will be 7 in December. We entered the world of organized sports this Spring. We had been ice-skating since 2010 and both boys enjoy that. But Caleb was ready to play some ball this Spring so he played AA and Noah, T-ball (with Mom as assistant coach).
Caleb still counts baseball as his favorite sport, though soccer is becoming a very close runner-up. Today was soccer picture day, so we were at the fields for about 3 and a half hours between the pictures and the games. Caleb scored two goals today and Noah really had a good time running up and down the field with the ball and his team. It’s great fun to see them having so much fun. It’s also great fun for me because 4 other families from our church have their kids in the same league so we are always in good company on the sidelines.
Caleb has moved to the Lower School building and is now in a fabulous first grade classroom. He seems to have transitioned without missing a beat and is feeling very grown up at school, I think. Their social studies unit is based around where our food comes from and they’re going to take lots of trips to urban farms and all kinds of markets and I think he’s going to love it. He also has P.E. everyday, which makes him super happy. Noah is in his last year of pre-school, the Butterfly class, and has just informed me that he would like Harry Potter Legos for his birthday. Never mind that he doesn’t even know who or what Harry Potter is. Apparently one of his good Butterfly friends has them 🙂 I think Caleb could sit for HP Book 1 but I’m not sure about Noah. He is finally getting into Caleb’s Magic Tree House series. For a while he would just play alongside us while we read those, but now he sits on the bed and is very interested in Jack and Annie’s adventures. It’s funny with the second one, they are always playing a little above their age. Tonight, I watched Noah deliberately (and correctly) sound out all the letters in a very long word from the children’s Bible. He didn’t know what to do with the collection of sounds but all the pieces were there. I was amazed. I think he’ll be reading soon. He also loves to see how high he can count. Today in the car I heard him begin at 1 million and count to 1 million and thirty (which actually sounds like “1 million and firty”). “Phew,” he sighed. “I’m going to take a rest now.”
I’m enjoying devoting more of my brain to teaching this fall now that my studies are finished. We are also launching a children’s choir at church in October. I am excited to see how it unfolds. As crazy as it sounds, I returned to Singing City last Fall (now I’m really seeing why I haven’t posted since last November) and it was a wonderful season. So good to be singing regularly and looking forward to a new season. Our fall concert is themed “Love and Mortality.” More on that in another post, lots of great texts to share. For our full season of performances, check out http://www.singingcity.org/performance.html.
As the boys grow and thrive and play sports I wonder, in certain moments, how life would be different if Jared were physically a part of it. It’s as if my life exists on two parallel tracks. The track that had Jared in it abruptly ceases to be my life and underneath another one picks up and keeps moving without him. Our life is still full and wonderful in so many ways, yet it’s one where he is markedly absent. I wonder if there is ever a point where the tracks of the former and the present lives converge. “Yes and No” is probably the answer to my wondering. We will continue to Light the Night (Leukemia and Lymphoma Society fundraising walk) in his memory again this year in Philadelphia. I’m looking forward to having his family here for that whole weekend at the end of October. Join us if you can!
Hopefully I’m back to blogging more regularly now. Until next time.
This Sunday is Singing City’s Fall Concert. It is called Together We Sing – Expressions of Life Through American Music. It is my first time singing a concert with Singing City without Jared singing too. This week, we had rehearsal in the First Baptist sanctuary, where we will perform. From my place on the risers, I looked up at the balcony. Instantly, I remembered the first time that Jared and I came to see Singing City perform. It was in the Spring of 2003. It was before we were married. His parents were visiting. We came to hear the Rachmaninoff Vespers, David Weaver had invited us. It was glorious. I still remember where we sat. And I remember seeing a sheet in the program that invited people to audition. So that week, I did. Jared did not. In the fall, I went to the first rehearsal. Jared had not yet auditioned and did not have any intention of doing so. I heard about the summer 2004 tour to Ireland. I went home that night and told Jared about Ireland. He auditioned that week 🙂 We never looked back. Even after we had Caleb, our wonderful friend Kim would watch him on Tuesday nights for us so that we could still both go and sing together.
All those memories from just one glance at a balcony…it caught me off guard a little.
Each segment of Sunday’s concert is being introduced by a choir member. I was asked to write up an introduction to the segment entitled “We Sing Our Lamentation,” introducing Samuel Barber’s world famous Agnus Dei (his own choral arrangement of his piece Adagio for Strings). Here’s what I wrote. (This is the full-length version. For time’s sake, the version that I read at Sunday’s concert is much abbreviated, but the essence is still there.)
Ever since April of 1945, when Adagio for Strings was performed during the radio announcement of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s death, the work was established as an anthem of national mourning. The Adagio was also performed at the funerals of John F. Kennedy and Albert Einstein and at many memorial events in the days following the attacks of September 11, 2001. The piece has also served as a haunting accompaniment for numerous films.
Barber was initially inspired by a passage from the poetry of Greek poet Virgil (Georgic III).
Here is the passage translated into English by Robert Pinsky:
As when far off in the middle of the ocean
A breast-shaped curve of wave begins to whiten
And rise above the surface, then rolling on
Gathers and gathers until it reaches land
Huge as a mountain and crashes among the rocks
With a prodigious roar, and what was deep
Comes churning up from the bottom in mighty swirls
Of sunken sand and living things and water . . .
So in the springtime every race of people
And all the creatures on earth or in the water,
Wild animals and flocks and all the birds
In all their painted colors, all rush to charge
Into the fire that burns them: love moves them all.
In his music, Barber captures the dual nature of the wave. It is powerful and dangerous, awe-inspiring and breathtaking.
We Sing Our Lamentation. As with the wave, the music washes over us, churning us from within. Life is beautiful. Yet grief and pain, anguish and beauty live together. We long for relief, renewal, inspiration.
The text of the Agnus Dei ends with a request for peace. Dona Nobis Pacem, Grant us peace.
We embrace peace.
We are moved by love.
We are not overwhelmed.
Please come to this wonderful concert if you are local. It is an array of great American choral music of all kinds. Sunday November 20th, 4pm, First Baptist Church, Corner of 17th and Sansom St.
I carved the pumpkin this afternoon in 20 minutes. We bought it two weekends ago but somehow there was no time to carve it. The boys always love the finished product but want nothing to do with the gooey stuff inside. They have never liked that. I’m hoping they will at some point…either that or I’ll get really good at carving pumpkins!
Continuing on with anecdotes from Noah…I knew they would come…
We’ve been having some indecision in regards to Halloween costumes. A few weeks ago, Noah announced he wanted to be a bat and we would have to find some wings. Then he changed that to Batman which, thankfully, we already have. Great! Caleb wanted to be a skeleton, a costume I ordered on-line. I actually ordered one for Noah too because I had a feeling he would want to be what Caleb was being. So last week, they were all about the skeleton costumes. On Friday afternoon as we were driving home from school. Noah informed me that he wanted to be a planet. Oh, I said. Well, we can do that. We can make you some rings to ear and you can be Saturn. No, Mommy, I want to be Earth. Planet Earth. Oh, I see. So I put it out on facebook and got a lot of great suggestions from crafty and clever friends and felt ready to tackle a planet Earth costume over the weekend. However, when we got home on Friday Caleb’s skeleton costume had come in the mail. He tried it on and Noah definitely wanted to be a skeleton too. So the plant earth idea was short-lived. Although I’m already scheming to use it next year for myself! Today was the Lower School Halloween parade and both boys wore their skeleton constumes. Lindsay, one of Noah’s teachers, dubbed them the skele-brothers!
This evening we were all dressed up and ready to start handing out candy when I got the bright idea to scavenge for a costume for myself in the kids’ costume box. I came out with a pirate hat, hook and an eye patch. I went upstairs to get a sash to tie around my waist and when Noah saw the getup I had put together he immediately demanded that hand it over. “I am Captain Pierre Plank,” he said. (He is a Pirate from a DVD we have.) But apparently Captain Pierre Plank doesn’t wear an eye patch, says Noah. So, I told him he could be a skeleton pirate, sans eye patch with hook (and sword which he absolutely had to find), because I was not taking off his skeleton suit. It was a tough sell, and I almost resorted to breaking out Pirates of the Caribbean to prove to Noah that skeletons could, in fact, be pirates as well. He didn’t fight me on it though so it didn’t come to that and we were finally ready to begin, skele-Caleb, Captain Pierre Plank, and mommy, without costume. Oh well. At least I’m ready for next year!
Caleb, though much less fickle than his little pirate brother, almost had a last minute change of heart himself as Noah was rifling through the costume box. Caleb saw his Bobafet mask. There is also a costume somewhere…If we had had a light saber, it would have been a done deal. But Caleb just wore the Bobafet mask on his head and kept his skeleton suit on. Sensible compromise.
For the first time this year, we walked a few blocks right around our house and actually trick or treated. They had a blast. Caleb didn’t really want to ask for candy, he wanted me to do it for him. But I talked him into trying it on the first house and after that he was leading the charge, running from house to house. We ran into neighbors from two houses down who have a daughter Caleb’s age. We knocked on their house as they were coming out, so we ended up walking with them for a while. It was really fun. Just nice to be out in the neighborhood! Then we returned home to eat dinner and finish handing out the rest of the candy. Noah was sure to wish everyone a Happy Halloween, I think he picked that up at school 🙂 And after each group of trick or treaters, Noah would come in the house and say, “Another happy customer!”
Noah looks at his candy with wonder and amazement. The first thing Caleb picked out of his bag was a little bag of Pretzels, which I let him pick from OUR giveaway bowl. Noah and I will probably eat most of Caleb’s candy.