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Life goes on and so does music: How one man’s grief is bringing joy to a little boy


Lecates | CC

Larry Peterson - published on 08/10/17

There was no way I could sell Marty's piano.
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“To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.” ~ St. Thomas Aquinas

Aleteia first posted an article about my wife Marty in January of 2016. By that time she had gone through four years of chemo treatments for lymphoma, developed serious heart issues, and had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. She was also still recovering from severely breaking her ankle in July of 2014.

I’ve shared with Aleteia readers our journey together with her illness and cognitive decline, including an account about her and her piano.

Marty passed away this past March. Her piano, of course, remained behind. It was part of her, an extension if you will — for no matter how much of her memory disappeared, every day she would still play that piano. The last few months of her life, she played it two to three hours a day.

After she was gone the piano stayed right where it had always been; the only difference being the silence resonating from it.

The presence of her piano extended the grief process for me. Every time I’d walk through the front door, there it would be, waiting to be brought to life. Silent.

When I looked at it I could see Marty there playing. At times I could even hear the music, sometimes so clearly and vividly that I had to leave the house.

After several weeks, I covered the piano with a large blanket. I placed a few knick-knacks on top and did my best to ignore it. The camouflage worked only a tiny bit, but it was better than nothing.

What to do? What to do?

I thought of selling the piano but quickly shushed that idea. There was no way I could sell Marty’s piano.

I decided it should go to someone who could not afford a piano and who would be able to play. So I contacted my parish to ask if they knew of anyone, but after two or three weeks of no response, I could only keep praying and wait.

Then in late July, I got a message from Sue, one of the members of the six-week Hospice bereavement group I’d joined in May, and whom I’d told about how the piano was affecting me.

She wrote that the music director at the Anona Methodist Church (who was also a piano teacher) might know a family that could use a piano. With a phone call to the music director, I learned of Sarah and her 7-year-old son learning to play. They only had a keyboard as the family could not afford a piano.

It was a perfect scenario. I asked the music director to have Sarah call me, and the next day she did. She was thrilled at the opportunity to get this piano for her son.

Speaking with her, I saw how God was in charge of this entire saga.

Marty began playing at the age of six or seven. Seventy years later, Sarah’s son has begun playing at the same age. Perhaps 70 years from now, an elderly man might be playing a piano somewhere. He would have learned to play on the same piano that a woman named Marty played her last song on 70 years earlier, such that the music coming from that piano had never stopped and now spanned four generations.

And yes, the possibility exists that it may continue well after he is gone. Who knows, right?

I have absolutely no doubt that this was meant to be — a special gift from the God who knows the number of hairs on our head and takes note of each small sparrow. You see, the piano will be picked up and delivered to its new owner on August 10, the feast of St. Lawrence, my patron saint.

Read more:
Bird-Watching and the Breathtaking Personalism of God

Having faith (as quoted by Aquinas above) is a beautiful thing. My prayers were, without a doubt, answered.

One final thought: I can see Marty looking down with that great big smile of hers stretched from ear to ear. She will be watching as a little boy sits at her piano and fingers the very keys she had fingered only six months earlier. And, as is God’s way of things, life goes on.

On occasion, so does His music.

Find all of Larry Peterson’s reflections on Marty and other topics here. Especially note:

Something more powerful than Xanax helped me with my grief

I was at my wife’s deathbed for one reason, and it had almost nothing to do with me

A surprisingly powerful medicine against the worst that Alzheimer’s threw at us

My wife’s Alzheimer’s reminds me that she is a beloved child of God

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