Mourning the Loss of a Dear Piano Student and Friend

Last evening when my husband said "I have really bad news" while reading our neighborhood newsletter, my stomach 793649dropped. Let me step back a minute...

An adult student of mine from the neighborhood named Pat had taken a sabbatical from lessons to fight Lymphoma. She had sustained a bone marrow transplant and had come out on the other side seemingly well. We ran into each other at Whole Foods this summer and she was the same gregarious, fun-loving and genuinely caring person that she was before the life-threatening procedure. Granted, she did sport a new look having lost 15 pounds and a new hair style that seemed close to hers--I couldn't tell it was a wig.

At the end of the summer, August 18th, I sent out an email to all my adult students welcoming them back to the studio and prompting them to set up lessons for the fall. Pat responded quite soon after the email and reported that she was hoping to return to lessons but was experiencing a set back. The docs were trying to get her back on a steady course to health.

Let me step back further...

Pat came to me for lessons about two years ago via a small ad I had placed in our Knolls Neighborhood Newsletter years before. She had dug out the ad, called me up and said she wanted piano lessons. I had no idea scheduling lessons with this dynamic 60-something-year-old Pat that I would establish a fast friend who would make me laugh and energize ME at every lesson. We began with her wish list and started work on her favorites from  "The King's Speech" soundtrack. As we dug into some of these demanding pieces she enjoyed playing them on "Bella," my Yamaha C6. Pat marveled at the sound and touch of an acoustic instrument when she would return for lessons after practicing on a relatively small digital keyboard at her home.

While on an African safari (she loved to travel), it became clear to her--not sure how the connection was made-- that she should buy herself a grand piano. She returned home, bought a Kawai grand and gave it a name assuming that Patall piano owners name their beloved pianos. She called her piano "Phinley" after her safari guide who she adored and whose skin was deep ebony. I even visited Phinley as Pat graciously invited me and my husband for a delicious gourmet meal where we met her husband, Don.

One more step back...

With this new piano came a fresh zeal for playing in styles of Jim Brickman and other new-age type composers. We also began using That's Jazz of Bradley Sowash and Pattern Play of Forrest Kinney.  Eventually, Pat brought few books to her lessons. She did not want to read music anymore as much as she wanted to create it. Ahhhh...a DREAM student! Her stunning arrangement of "Silent Night" captivated the adult workshop attendees last Christmas.

Back to now...

These few but remarkable details will help you understand why I am completely devastated by the loss of Pat. We had little contact as of late because of her illness. Although she lived about a block away, she was often quarantined to eliminate contact with any germs because of her compromised immune system. I missed seeing her. When she emailed me around the 18th of August, I responded back saying she was in my prayers and I looked forward to her return back on my bench. It turns out that although we just found out about her passing in the latest neighborhood newsletter last evening, cancer took Pat back on August 22nd, days after we exchanged emails.

This post is written with eyes blurred with tears and a Kleenex box close by. I'm in shock that I won't see Pat again on the bench with her huge "a-ha" moments after discovering a new chord or melodic pattern that satisfied her ears. Selfishly, I'll miss the current of energy she shared with me at every lesson. I also mourn for her husband, son, daughter and three grandchildren who now having a gaping hole in their hearts.

This post is my way of honoring Pat. I hope it touches you in some way and that her zest-filled, creative spirit will live on.

 

-Leila

 

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