By the time I posted Rejoice! A Final Word from Dan Uncle I had been practicing for a week and my body felt it. My back was acting up and my forearms were feeling the extra use. Not only was I practicing the medley for my video, but I was practicing my song list in case I had the opportunity to play at his funeral.
I played at several weddings in my Old Life, and some brides actually had me play them down the aisle. Not kidding. My theory is that my friends are often going for a sound that is familiar, and they were used to my sound and liked it well enough to ask me to play. Also, Y’all not picky, which helps.
I used to play at funerals, too, and had played one funeral (just Amazing Grace) post AVM. This time I was not slotted to play but I got to fill in for my friend S, an immensely gifted musician, who needed to travel for work. It worked out perfectly bc I played the prelude. Historically I have camped out in accompanist territory instead of performance art land, but now that I have physical deficits its easiest to play by ear without reference to keeping time with a congregation or choosing a key in a suitable vocal range. I started to learn to play by ear when I moved to Oregon and did it 50%+ of the time when I got sick. Now I play by ear 99% of the time (whenever I can).
Here is a fascinating look at how my new sound has developed:
Before: 3 mo. after injury, July 2011
Watch the left hand – although the right’s not great, either. FYI, this was supposed to be Tim Hughes’ “Here I am to Worship.”
(Daddy followed me around with his iPad all the time. He still does sometimes.)
After Mommy made me practice: 3.5+ years after injury, Nov 2014
3 Minutes: Silent Night, Away in a Manger (Non American Version), Holy Holy Holy, a little O Come, O Come Emmanuel
I’m content with my sound and music is an enjoyable and useful gift again. Plus bc of my deficits I am free from the tyranny of sheet music. But you can tell at the end in this song I was really hurting so I cut my losses before anything got worse – but I know how to manage it now…
The Prelude, while very imperfect, was enjoyable to me. It was such a gift to be able to participate and honor Dan Uncle in this way. It was also a very physically significant milestone. I made it for 26 minutes on the bench. That morning I had been hurting alarmingly and had resorted to the Ceragem bed prior to the service, hoping to just make it through. It turns out that adrenaline carried me through and I had enough juice in me to keep on playing for a longer period than I had been planning on, and also enough awareness to gauge my environment while keeping the music going so I didn’t freak out when people suddenly appeared within my peripheral field of vision, and to make a reasonably tuneful ending when informed that it was time to start the service. People told me they walked in and were looking for me for a while, and then realized I was behind the piano! If you didn’t know me you probably wouldn’t be able to tell anything had happened. But I guess they figured it out when they saw me riding around in my wheelchair later.
Overall, it was great. Sad, but good. I was so happy to see Aunty K again (Dan Uncle’s wife). One evening at the chapel I was hiding out in the nursery when M (their daughter) came in. Where’s the baby? I queried. Upstairs with Mom, she answered.
Your Mom is UPSTAIRS?!? (I thought she had stayed home.)
M nodded affirmatively.
Then WHY am I DOWN HERE?!?! I grabbed Leo and made my way upstairs.
Notably, I was hurting SO badly (hips and shoulders) for the week+ prior to the funeral. But the day after the service was over I had zero pain. I was just so relieved. I realized that it was a big deal that I didn’t get to say goodbye when they moved to California while I was traveling. My friends have told me stories about how they stopped by the house to visit and Dan Uncle prayed for them. Sniff. I explained to Aunty K that night as we sat together at the chapel how I had been going downhill physically but the pain had disappeared: I was waiting for you.
Predictably, the pain came back (less intensely) after I remembered that Aunty K was going back to California. Boooo.
So that’s where we are now – learning how to manage the ramifications of living in imperfect bodies. But as sad as it is to face the changes that come with saying goodbye, I am so thankful that God gave the gift of music back to me.
PS. Here’s a quote from December 2012:
Playing the piano does not make me feel better, hence Mommy’s insistence that I practice. It has improved but the sound is still too different from what I hear in my head for me to enjoy. Exercising was my other form of enjoyment but now it’s my job, not an enjoyable pursuit. It’s also hampered by my impairments, which isn’t fun for me.
PPS. I take it back. Exercising is now enjoyable, too :).