This fall we gave Josiah a number of options that he could pick from for activities to try. They included soccer, baseball, a kid’s club and Beavers. Much to my surprise, he picked…piano lessons.
I’m not complaining. I love music and I was excited that he shares that love of music as well. We found a great teacher and after two lessons things seem to be going well. Practicing is much less of a battle than I thought it would be and I was pleasantly surprised that he wasn’t frustrated to discover that he would not instantly be able to play all his favourite songs. It’s been a fall of surprises when it comes to piano lessons! But there was one surprise I did not anticipate at all: piano lessons make me miss my sister.
My sister was 13 years older than me, which means that when I was 23 and living in Newfoundland and treating my sister’s house like a second home, she was at the phase of life that I am in now, with young kids at home and busy schedules and, yes, music lessons. Some of my favourite memories involve music lessons at Roxanne’s house. Each night, her girls were expected to practice and they would turn it into a concert for us. I have many memories of Roxanne reminding her girls to practice piano (or violin…or cornet…or voice…) and of whoever was in the house patiently listening as they wrestled their way through a piece until they got to the end and we all applauded and told them how fantastic they were. I sat through many nights of music practice as I was on my way to hang out with friends or as I waited to talk to Roxanne about my latest boy drama or as I flipped through a book – oblivious to the effort it took on the part of Roxanne and Derek to get through each practice. Kids’ piano lessons were not a top priority in my life at that point. I was at a totally different phase and my nieces’ piano lessons were more of a fun and cute and “aren’t my nieces adorable when they play piano?” kind of thing.
Now, I’m at that phase. Each night I remind Josiah to practice, stand by him as he grapples with each piece, cheer when he is finished. I knew it would be like that, but I did not know how much it would make me miss my sister. I did not realize how much she had gotten into piano lessons, and how often piano would make me long to talk to her – vent with her about lessons, get Josiah to play for her, tell her that I understand now how tired she must have been those nights as she stood beside the keyboard and did it anyway. Apologize that I didn’t get it. Tell her what a great job she did, and rejoice together at what beautiful piano players her girls became. Tell her she gave them a gift, and I’m trying to do the same. Hear her encourage me that it will all be worth it.
So often I would joke to Roxanne when she would call to vent about issues in her girls lives: “You will have to remind me of all the stuff I’m telling you when my kids get to this age!” I looked forward to that, and with each new phase my children face there comes a sadness that that will never happen.
A couple of weeks ago I spoke at our Elim retreat, and in one of my talks I reminded the women of the importance of Lament. I shared how we have to lament, to grieve, the losses we face in life, and that doing so with hope helps us move forward. What is so hard to understand after a loss is that with each new phase there is something new to lament. I know some of you reading this will get it. You, too, have your reasons to lament: things are not as you hoped they would be for your children, you are missing someone you love, you have entered a season of change and it is hard. Today, my lament is for the loss of Roxanne during the season of piano lessons. I didn’t even know this was a loss I would feel, but a loss it is, and lament I must. My lament is simple: I am sad that my sister is not here in this season. It is not what I expected. It is not what I wanted.
My lament does not mean that I do not have faith or that the peace and healing I have experienced since my sister has died is any less. It just means that piano lessons came with feelings I did not expect. And that once again I must bring those feelings before God and name them for what they are. I do this with the certainty that God hears and understands and accepts my lament – and, in that, there is hope.
So, we’ll keep playing the piano. There are, as yet, new songs to learn.