At the keys again..

I don’t like funerals. Honoring the dead has always been traditional, ritualistic and somewhat macabre. When I was younger, I always had a creepy feeling when surrounded by fellow mourners. The wearing of black, the placing of flowers, eulogies, and the whole experience used to fill me with the most profound dread. Now that I’m older, I’ve realized that I’ve come to think about life differently – in a whole new and refreshing way.

I got a call from my father just shortly before my Nana’s untimely passing. He was noticeably upset and asked me one question: “would you play for the service?” Instantly, I said yes. Later, I was asked by my Aunt Pam the same question, I also answered with “yes.” It wasn’t until a few days after these separate conversations that I started to panic. “I haven’t touched the keys in three years,” I thought to myself. “What will I play?” “What if I mess up?” These questions were like bumper cars inside my brain, bumping into each other at odd intervals. It was true, I hadn’t touched the keys in several years. What was worse, I hadn’t even had a piano lesson since I was at least 14 years old. I had agreed to play for a funeral, without even considering my own feelings. That’s when it dawned on me. Playing wasn’t about me, it was about honoring my grandmother, someone who truly appreciated my talent. I still panicked, worried that I wouldn’t sound right, or that I would hit the wrong notes. It didn’t matter if I hit the wrong notes, it wouldn’t matter if I sounded like a five year old. No one would care if I hadn’t played in a handful of years. I was playing to honor someone who I had died, my grandmother. I wasn’t doing this for myself, I was offering my talent to my family in reverence and respect.

The pastor who was officiating the service, came up to me during visitation, and asked me what I was interested in doing and when I might like to play. I had agreed to play at the opening of the service. When my grandfather passed away in 2001, I had missed half the service because I had played right in the middle of it. I didn’t want to miss out on anything this time – out of respect.

I played a medley of hymns with the Prelude in C Major by J.S. Bach, and while I was adding my customary flourishes all my fears left me. My body was at ease and the music flowed from me. The old magic had returned. It felt as if the piano keys and my hands were rejoicing at their reunion.

Later on, after the family had laid my grandmother to rest, beside her husband of over 50 years, various people came up to me saying, “You played so well, thank you.” Such words reignited the fire that I remember having has a child: wanting to play, for the enjoyment of others.

It is with pride that I write of my full intention of returning to music lessons, I’ve already contacted the School of Music at MTSU about the potential of taking lessons on campus. I’ve been wanting to return to the piano. Thanks to Nana, I think now would be the best time to pick things back up, where they left off.

Chris at a Steinway Piano, in the Wright Music Building on the campus of MTSU.

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