July 18, 2019
It was a beautiful home in Squirrel Hill. Historic neighborhood, beautiful trees, arched doorways, stained glass, wood floors. A lovely salon, sadly without a piano. We set up the keyboard on one side of the room for Luz and I stood in front of the fireplace, with only a coffee table separating me from the sofa where Meredith*, Patricia*, and her husband were sitting. In the dining room, a lovely table was set up with flowers, a fruit salad, homemade cookies, and other goodies.
I heard high-pitched crying/wailing from the other room when Meredith entered and spoke with Patricia. I was afraid that playing music might just make it worse. Finally, she introduced herself. Meredith was a lovely, very thin woman, who apologized that her sons and mother were not joining her and that she had come alone. They sat on the sofa, Patricia fetched some tissues, and I spoke about Beethoven’s life briefly and proceeded to play the first movement. Meredith moved through moments of engagement, crying, and looking at pictures of her late husband, Jim*, on her phone.
When I described the second movement as a place of peace, beauty, and perfect love, she said that Jim was in that place. She showed me a photo of him in Prague. He looked like a happy, gentle man. I told her that I felt his presence in the room and that if she liked, I would use this music to connect her with him. I felt myself “emptying out” mentally and inviting Jim in. The interpretation that followed was one of the tenderest love. Every phrase was a caress, an invitation for her to connect with him. The “divine melody” came effortlessly as a melting embrace. There was peace, tenderness, deep love. It was a revelation for me, and a tremendous honor to be the vessel through which this communication could take place. To share this intimate space with Meredith and be part of her healing was truly magical.
It was tremendous for me to experience Jim’s interpretation of the 2nd movement, and it put my regular interpretation into question: a hymn to the divine, an entreaty by an unworthy soul, then courage, a laying bare of one’s Self, and a divine drop of Grace descending to fill the soul with rapture, a second more bold entreaty and another wave of rapture, then a blissful farewell. I realized that my version was laced with guilt, unworthiness, and striving for the love of God (male)…an old ingrained pattern of a young Mormon girl striving for paternal approval. Jim’s version was so much more empowering and liberating: the ability to GIVE love, to touch someone else with tenderness draws on the boundless creative power of the human Spirit.
At the end of the 2nd movement and into the 3rd, I had the distinct impression that Jim wanted Meredith to be happy, and I told her that, trite as it may sound, Jim wanted her to know that “he just wants you to be happy.” Meredith broke down again and confirmed that those closest to her and Jim had told her the exact same thing. She didn’t know how that was possible without him, though.
We shared some of Patricia’s homemade ice cream and other goodies afterwards. When we left, Patricia (who is not wealthy) offered to sponsor a performance for someone who could not afford the pianist’s fee. I accepted her offer on behalf of the Congolese refugees. She sent us home with wildflowers from her garden.
*all names have been changed for privacy