A Piano in Heaven

We’ve lost a true treasure.

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The water has been flowing freely in Texas over the past few days from the rain clouds, but today, the water is coming from the tears of many fellow West Texans over the loss of one of our true treasures, pianist and composer Doug Smith, who died in his sleep this week(A complete list of Doug’s albums can be found at the end of the linked article.)

My family heard Doug play in person on several occasions, usually at church, and I also heard him in concert on another occasion, too.  I’m not sure if any music has ever moved me so much as Doug’s music did over the years, and I know I’m not alone in feeling this way, especially today.

The news of his death also hit me yesterday as I remembered what a fan my mother was of Doug and his music.  I remember taking her to buy some of his CDs at a local store here a few years ago and remember how thrilled she was to have them and listened to them so often.  People young and old alike loved Doug and his music, it seems.

As an avid lover of both music and photography, I found his artistic collaboration with Texas State Photographer, Wyman Meinzer, to be a truly rare work of art that I probably won’t see again in my lifetime, and I think it will go down as one of the best representations of my West Texas home that will ever be created.  Any visitor to our area can benefit from first watching this magnificent video to try to first understand the soul of the area and its people that these two gentlemen managed to capture so beautifully.

Often, when we go camping, we listen to Doug’s music.  It is such a perfect fit when out in our beautiful Texas State Parks.  Many scenes in the “West Texas” video are from those state parks that we visit so often, too.  Today, I broke down in tears watching the video again and knowing that half of the artistic duo that created it is now gone from us.  That speaks to the impact Doug and his music had on so many of us.

Please take a few minutes today or sometime soon to watch the two videos below.  One is the video I spoke of above, the famous “West Texas” video, and the other is an eight minute documentary by Doug himself following his tragic car wreck in 2007 that paralyzed him and took away his ability to play the piano… temporarily.  It is an epic story of overcoming adversity and is one that I think you will remember going forward, too.

You will see the West Texas video in its best quality by watching it in full screen mode.

Wyman Meinzer’s West Texas from Wyman Meinzer on Vimeo.

I’m going to listen to Doug’s music this week as I go about my daily chores, and I will pray for his family and all that loved him.  They are legion, and some of us feel that we’ve lost part of ourselves in his passing.  We mourn both the man and his music today.

Today, it gives me comfort to know that the hands that Doug said he missed a few years ago are once again restored and that there is a piano in Heaven that is once again singing the tunes of the soul of West Texas at the hands of a master with a true gift from God who learned to play the piano by ear.  And for all the many, many hours of enjoyment Doug’s music has brought to me, and will continue to do in years to come, I wanted to offer my own little tribute today in gratitude.

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A Time to Remember

It’s personal for me.

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It’s Memorial Day and a time to remember those who have sacrificed and those who died for us.

On this day each year, I always think of the uncle I never knew that died in WWII.  We actually know much about him, but I will always be sad that I never knew my father’s handsome little brother who endured such great hardship and suffering in war.  My father never talked too much about him because I think it was just too painful to do so.  But, he made sure we knew about him and how he died.

Perhaps that is the reason I’ve always taken Memorial Day to heart.  It’s personal.  Because it is personal for me, I appreciate how it is personal and painful for many, many other family members and dear friends today, too.

Today, we remember and mourn together for our loved ones gone much too soon, and we also show our appreciation as we are moved to do so, including taking time to be with family.  These days, that is certainly something to celebrate, and I think many loved ones gone before us are smiling when we gather.

Today, I hope you will remember those gone and celebrate those present.  We are truly blessed indeed.  May we never take that blessing for granted.

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Wordless Wednesday – The Day The Music Died

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The Last First Anniversary

My first year without Mom and without any living parents

After losing three parents in previous years, I always came to dread the first anniversaries of their deaths each year.  Without fail, every first anniversary was a hard day emotionally for me, especially the first parent, Hubby’s father, who died on Christmas Eve just a few days before our son was born.  Each of our four parents endured a fairly long and hard illness prior to their death, and each illness was brutal on them in the process and excruciating for all of us to watch.

Each year when those first anniversaries of losing our first three parents came around, the day always seemed to bring back the emotional pain of those terrible illnesses, as well as a reminder of the gaping hole left in our lives.  We learned over subsequent years that this pain begins to subside as time goes on, but that first anniversary is always hard.

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Following Mom’s death a year ago, the next four months were the hardest times for me as I tried to grieve while also having to deal with immediate estate matters amid sometimes tense family issues and moving her things out of two separate living facilities.  For these reasons, I don’t think that I truly grieved until the estate business was finally settled in May.  Tears flowed numerous times during those first months, but I’m not sure I grieved as I needed to do.

Finally, in early May, the last estate matters were settled.  Hubby and I took a postponed anniversary trip to Maui, and our first full day on the island was Mother’s Day.  We opted to take the trip over Mother’s Day so that we could change our routine for that day that would be hard no matter where we were, but would be especially hard if we stayed home.

I woke up a couple of hours before my husband and just sat on the lanai with a cup of coffee, overlooking the ocean and the sunrise, and that is when my grief really came to the surface rather unexpectedly.

It was my first Mother’s Day with no mother.

I’m glad that Hubby slept in upstairs in as I sobbed to the point that I got a terrible headache, but somehow felt joy and some relief at the same time, a truly remarkable feeling.  It felt like grief and closure all at once, and I even took a few photos and a video of the stunning beauty around me afterward with my phone to try to capture this memorable moment when God felt so close.  There is really no good way to describe that time, except that a tremendous burden felt like it had finally been lifted from my shoulders for the first time in many years.

Ever since that special sunrise experience on Mother’s Day morning, I’ve felt much better in how I’ve handled Mom’s death.  We still had two more deaths to go with other close family members last year, and while those were also very hard, I remained at peace with Mom’s passing for the most part.  Still, I dreaded the first anniversary of her death, based on past experiences.

This last first anniversary came and went on Wednesday, and just like all of those other first anniversaries, it was pretty hard, with some of those same old feelings I felt when she suffered so much for an entire month and passed away making an appearance once again.  I felt more prepared this time, though.  I deliberately kept that day free from appointments and times with friends, and I’m glad I did.

Sometimes we need to simply recognize that at times like this, we need to be gentle with ourselves as we can and give ourselves a pass on some things without feeling guilty. We can’t help our feelings, but we can have a say-so in how we deal with them.

Wednesday was an uneventful day of simple household chores, reading and jotting down a few thoughts privately and on Facebook to commemorate the day and honor her life, and a few tears once again found their way back to my eyes again while Hubby was at work.  My best friend sent a simple text to just say she loved me and was thinking about me, which meant so much, as she also lost her father early last year.  Hubby and I just opted for take-out from Chick-Fil-A, dining at home with the pups keeping us company as they always do in the evenings, and this was exactly how I needed to spend the day.

There is truly a beautiful blessing in the normal.

This last first anniversary also brought home once again the significant difference in our lives now that we have no living parents.  Even after a full year, we are both still learning to adjust to this reality.  Once again, we took some sage advice to change our routine during the holidays, which was interesting and actually helped us get through Thanksgiving and Christmas pretty well, even though Christmas morning still brought a few tears.

Lastly, I have found myself quite unprepared in some ways to now being one of the elders of the family, even though we are only in our 50’s, which is not the norm for most people our age.  All of our friends still have one or more living parents, and perhaps this would be a good topic for another post sometime.

If there is any consolation right now, it is this simple fact…

No more first anniversaries for us. Ever again. (At least for our parents.)  It should get a little easier from here.

Note:  In my previous Wordless Wednesday post, I shared a simple photo of a CD.  “Stained Glass” by Doug Smith has some of the most beautiful Christian piano music I’ve ever heard.  I took that photo just a few hours before Mom passed away as I sat with her, both of us listening to this beautiful music in her peaceful, private bedroom.  It was such a beautiful, yet emotionally hard, time.  I will never forget our priceless time together as she transitioned from one life to the next.  God’s presence was so real and strong in a truly remarkable way that day, and I continued to feel that strong presence throughout the coming days as we dealt with her arrangements.

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Wordless Wednesday – One Year Ago Today

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Wordless Wednesday – Rest in Peace

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Saying Goodbye to Mom

It is once again Friday morning.  I woke up about an hour ago, realized it was Friday, and reminded myself that I need to call Mom after she is done with breakfast around 9 a.m. at the place where she lives, and has lived for the past six years.

But, I then quickly realized that there is no need to call Mom because she is no longer with us.

Mom passed away on January 20 at 11:24 p.m.  I was with her by her bedside, as was a wonderful nurse from Hospice.  We were the only two people with her when she just suddenly quit breathing, took only a few more short random breaths, then left us to run into the arms of Jesus, leaving me reeling from her passing, which was a day or two earlier than what we had been told would likely happen by the nurses caring for her.

No more Fridays out with Mom.  Ever.

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Instead, I have a list of appointments with the attorney, the broker, the funeral home and the monument folks who will soon be etching her date of death on the marker that she placed on her own grave site back in 1999 when Daddy died.  She has missed him so very much, just as she has missed my older brother, and if there is any consolation to me right now, it is the fact that I truly believe she is with them once again, along with many other family members and friends that she has deeply mourned for years.  It is some consolation, but honestly, not much.

I haven’t had the ugly cry yet.  I am trying to put it off until I get more of her business affairs in order and can eventually just try to relax a bit.  There has not been time for that since late December and probably won’t be time for at least a couple of weeks at best.  I guess I am afraid that once I break down, it may take a while to get back up or something.  But, it will come.  It always does.  I’m betting it will come when my hubby resumes his work travel next week and leaves me home alone for the first time since her death.  It won’t be his fault, but being alone will now have a whole new meaning in my life.  I also don’t think the reality and finality of her passing has truly hit me yet.  I know it will at some point.

I have been able to share some brief tidbits on Facebook with friends there through this sad time of her illness and death, but I just couldn’t bring myself to actually write more from my heart here.  This is about the best I can do right now, but I think over time, I can start writing again.  I’ve always been able to move on at some point after a tragedy and loss, and I trust it will happen again.

For the first time in our lives, my husband and I have no living parents.  I am now a matriarch at age 56.  That just doesn’t seem right.  I’m too young to be without a parent, I think.

Time to get ready and head out for all these not-so-fun appointments.  I would much rather be looking forward to lunch at the steakhouse with Mom instead.

I miss you, Mom.

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