The last thing I posted had the word “missing” in the title. A few days ago I wrote a rambly thing as I thought about a canceled show and one of its canceled performers, pushed off the stage by contagious circumstances. I know he’s okay, but I miss him. Alas, not only is the virus catching but that sentiment of missing, too, seems to spread, the more I think about it. I thought (a bit abashed at the end), maybe this will be the first of a series, because there is so much we’re missing.
The Nutcracker has packed up for the year.
Come From Away is gone forever. We are missing lots of things right now.
Perhaps you’re missing the annual junior hockey world championship. One day I was watching the brilliant young Canadians clobbering Austria, and before you know it, damn, the tournament was done.
Please follow along with this, it’s a completely capricious and illogical sequence.
My mom is 100. It’s a miracle she’s alive still. In the summer she had a collapse (weak heart), and for a time she was in Mt Sinai as they watched her closely, then she went to Bridgepoint for two months of rehabilitation. She’s now home, although not as strong and independent as she was a year ago. But wow she’s alive and stronger now than she was when she came home in November.
In 1960 I was five years old, the year my dad died. Yesterday was the sixty-first anniversary of my father’s passing. My mom and I watched TV together with a candle lit to his memory. The candle on December 30th is something she has done every December 30th since.
It was my honour to light it for her, for him.
That’s Muriel’s Wedding on the tube.
Today I heard the surprising news that Betty White passed away, just a few days short of her hundredth birthday. Why did I dare be surprised? Sure, she always seemed so lucid, so strong, so beautiful. When I heard it, I was not really surprised by the news, painful as it was.
Living to 99 is already a miracle.
With our recognition of mortality spirituality lurks underneath, like the prayers we make to God when we’re on an airplane in a storm, making bargains begging for our lives, if only…. God and religion are the underpinnings we never think of. You swear an oath in a courtroom. You get married in front of a pastor with Jesus smiling down from the stained glass.
And so consciously or otherwise, I sat down at the piano, where I had my Chalice Hymnal.
I should explain, I’m an opportunist. When I see something useful in a used book store I buy it. I jumped at the chance to have at least one of all the usual hymnals that one sees in churches, and enjoy playing them from time to time.
The Chalice Hymnal is especially important to me because it’s what they use at Hillcrest, where I have been singing as a soloist or in the choir on and off for the past decade, and occasionally subbing for music director David Warrack at the organ, as I did twice in January 2020, the last two times I had the privilege of going to church.
((( Sigh )))
I miss church, the community, the friendships, the music, the energy of the spirit. And it’s been another Christmas of displacement, feeling like an exile.
I sat down at the piano to hymn #160, a tune with resonance for me.
It’s the centerpiece for the film The Time Traveler’s Wife, the carol sung early in the film, that recurs through the movie like its beating heart. Yes I do love the film. Can you tell?
And Tafelmusik Chamber Choir gave us a version of the hymn at their live Christmas concert not so long ago. It was such an opportunity to be able to attend a live concert: especially when seen in retrospect, as we must now miss so many events and performances.
At the end of the concert I had a lovely conversation with people sitting nearby. OMG how lovely to again socialize, the supporters of Tafelmusik being a special breed. They saw me taking notes, and so we started to talk. We discussed the urgent (nerdy) question: how many verses does the hymn “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” really have? In the original German, some would argue that there are only two, as you see in the photo from the hymnal. Those two in English are translated from their German originals. In some congregations in USA one sings four verses, or so said one of my new acquaintances, something google confirmed for me.
Today that was but the first hymn I played. No I didn’t have the voice to sing today. I’m sometimes muted by how I feel, I suppose. I went through the many of the Christmas carols / hymns, into Easter, and beyond. I was aware that I was playing them pianistically, out of touch with the organ that I haven’t, well, touched: not since January 2020. It’s not the same to make a piano piece out of a hymn, or at least the impulse carries one to a different musical place, a different spiritual place.
No it’s not church, not even close. But then again this is a time of estrangement. The piano will have to do for now.
I stopped, went to feed Sam, and after a bit, took her outside, letting her wander about in the fading light before sunset.
I’m so lucky to be here at this time, witnessing my mom’s latest chapter. I don’t know how many more days or weeks or years she can manage. But she’s stronger since emerging from hospital, and as lucid as ever. She’s a lot of fun.
Tonight is New Year’s, an arbitrary celebration. We appreciate Betty White at any age, a great soul and a wonderful person. Perhaps we should remember gratitude every day we’re here, noticing one another at any age, regardless of whether it’s the first or last day of the year, whether or not it’s the last year of our lives. I feel like a lucky guy, glad to be here, blessed.
Thank you for reading this. And have a Happy New Year.