It has been a rough week at my house, for several reasons, many of which I won’t write about. But yesterday a lot of emotions overflowed when I received a letter from my piano teacher, Kris Davis, the one who guided me through my adolescent years. More accurately, I received a letter from her husband.
Every year at Christmas, for as long as I can remember, we have exchanged cards/letters. I enjoyed hearing updates about her life and I shared with her what we had been up to. This year was no different. I sent a card and she sent one back, this time with a new address and a grim one-liner about how it was their last move until they entered the plots they had purchased at the cemetery.
I wrote back a longer letter, letting her know how much I appreciated her and that she had enriched my life through music. I had recently performed a piano solo at my church, a medley of Silent Night and Still, Still, Still. I had received many compliments on my performance, even the declaration that I had brought one person to tears.
My piano teacher, Kris, responded, and at the end of her letter, it said the letter had been dictated to her husband and that he had written down her thoughts. I responded again, asking why she could not write. I assumed she had arthritis, from years of piano performance and teaching.
When I received a letter in return, I did not open it for several days. As I said, it has been a rough week at our house, so when I finally got to it yesterday, its contents devastated me.
The letter was from Kris’s husband, explaining that she could not write because she is suffering from dementia. He explained that she cannot play the piano anymore and that her short-term memory is mostly gone. He encouraged me to come and visit them.
I immediately began sobbing uncontrollably. This news caught me by surprise and I felt as if the words I had been exchanging with her were not real and had not been understood, when for so many years I felt she was perhaps the only person who really understood me. I felt loss and sorrow for her ailment and extreme sadness that she could no longer play the piano. I worried for her husband, who must also be devastated and who cares for her each day.
I called my sister Haley immediately. I made her cry with my crying and we remembered Kris and her influence on our lives. Haley often daydreamed that Kris and her husband were her real parents and that she lived with them, instead of where we did live, a place of chaos, anger, violence, and meanness.
Haley and I are planning to visit her. We don’t know what to expect, but we will go. We want to honor her life and the goodness she brought to our lives.