This week that is far from a fatuous statement, even from a happy-go-lucky bit of fluff like me. I am always well aware that my life is, was and (I hope) ever shall be a dance party, a dessert buffet and a self-indulgent lounge-by-the-pool compared to most others’ lives. I am grateful to be such a spoiled, blessed or insulated–depending upon your definition; I would admit to all of them in vast quantities–person and like to think that I would never take such wealth for granted.
There are always sharp reminders for me in the family, friends and friends-of-friends who are doing valiant daily battle just to be alive, and if able, to maintain a modicum of quality and dignity in that life, when they are the unwilling hosts of those unwelcome shadow companions of chronic illness–physical, mental, and/or spiritual. I do wish that there were some magic wand I could wave that would miraculously lift away all of those torments and remove the dense dark clouds of them forever, from all people. That is simply a dream, and I know it. But this week I have particular reminders quite close by, and in many ways, of how fortunate I am, and yet also how resilient and remarkable the people and the world around me are as well.
I mentioned yesterday’s storms: the tornadoes that shredded roofs, trees, tractor-trailer trucks and neighborhoods as though they were so much tissue paper. The hail that shattered shelters and windows and destroyed crops. The rain that immersed the already open wounds of the storm-beaten regions in additional water damage. And of course the early high temperatures in the area that will contribute to faster decay and more difficult cleanup and repair work to follow. And not one little iota of the damaging aspects of that touched our home or us personally. Even my tiniest dainty garden sprouts are still thrusting their green leaves upward today. In brilliant sun.
As oversized as All Things Texan can be, the moods of the weather at its wildest are for the most part quickly forgotten by the broad Texas sky, which today is intensely blue and dotted with the mildest of cotton-wool clouds and polished with blazing warm sunlight. The trees, following a light pruning by the winds that mainly took off deadwood and weak twigs in our neighborhood, are lifting their green crowns in thirst-quenched pleasure once more. Barring nuclear winter, it seems that the sun in north Texas always tends to return rather quickly after the darkest and angriest of nights.
The thunderclap that affected me more directly this week was not from the stormy skies of a tornado system but via a telephone call from ‘home’: Mom’s recovery from her pair of spinal fusion surgeries hit a serious setback. Her pelvis cracked in a stress fracture. What does it mean? Many more weeks of immobility and pain for someone who has already endured years of it. Another surgery–tomorrow–for the installation of yet more hardware to stabilize her fragile frame. Total bed-rest for what must seem an eon to someone who has been a virtual shut-in for a long time, the woman famous for a lifetime of being out and about taking care of all the rest of the world before her stenosis, scoliosis, Parkinson’s, and joint inflammation all combined to beat her into submission. But whose telephone calls have never ceased to be mainly aimed at reassuring those around her that she maintains her love and concern for them—us–and is bracing for whatever the next phase of her fight brings. I hang up from the call and rather than going to pieces in sadness, frustration and anger over the cruelties that her health has dealt her incessantly in these last years, I am weirdly comforted that her doctors are keeping a close eye on her and have a plan for dealing with the current circumstances; that she and my father are, however nervously it may be, committed to seeing through yet another surgery and recovery process; that my sisters and relatives living nearby are keeping a close eye on them and my aunt yet again stepping in willingly to assist with Mom’s care. And that across the world we have a collective host of family and friends who are all cheering them on, willing her well, hoping and supporting in the one way that we can when we are not physically on hand or trained surgeons either one.
In the midst of all of this, the choir-conducting member of my household has the particular and specially challenging time of year that so many western musicians find mighty intense: Holy Week. Never mind that my spouse is in rehearsals for several major upcoming concerts with his and other groups at the university: yesterday afternoon he had rehearsal at 2 pm for next week’s concert with his Collegium Singers (early music choir) that will join them with the university’s Baroque Orchestra, so at the end of that rehearsal he went straight to conduct the orchestra’s rehearsal; when that one finished at 6 pm, he dashed straight over to conduct a rehearsal of the Grand Chorus, which is a combination of his Chamber Choir and Dr. Jerry McCoy’s A Cappella Choir for a major concert on the 25th of this month. Amazingly, he still made it (just) in time to meet me at 8 pm to attend A Cappella’s own concert with Dr. McCoy.
And, oh yes, I was talking about Holy Week. Because of course as my husband is still the interim choirmaster at the Anglican church, he had last weekend’s Palm Sunday services (and Evensong) to conduct, tonight’s Tenebrae service (a ‘service of darkness’ that may have special meaning for many after yesterday’s intense weather slamming the region), tomorrow’s Maundy Thursday evening service, these all interwoven with the usual things musical and administrative continuing at the university; midday and evening services on Good Friday, Easter Vigil to fill with music on Saturday evening, and Sunday morning Easter services. And all the while, day becomes night, night passes, and the sun takes over the Texas sky once more. That’s how it goes.
I merely follow in the wake of all these events and life dramas, taking up the slack in the sails of our little boat as I’m able, and keeping us provisioned with food, clean clothes (keep plenty of black shirts laundered for concerts and services!), and my numerous and sundry checklists of what to do, where to go when, and things we mustn’t forget to bring along. It makes me tired to think of doing what everyone else around me is doing; I’m just glad if I can keep fairly close as I follow them. But I suppose I’m just a little bit like the elephant-following sweeper who is reluctant to ‘leave show-business’, as I wouldn’t trade this Job, however modest it may appear, for anything else on earth. Because the sun, when it shines on me, is so incredibly life-affirming and bright and joyful that I can’t say no to its urgings to come out of the dark and Do things, however small they may be.