My sister Connie lived in a very private world, usually keeping people, even those closest to her, at a respectful distance, not because she didn’t love them, but rather because she felt that any problems she might be carrying should never weigh down those around her, and opening those locked doors meant releasing pain she did not want to share with others even if it signified receiving the regard and healing that those around her often wanted so much to give her. Part of this, of course, was based upon Connie’s fierce pride in her own independence, but part came also from her staunch personal resolution never to wound anyone with her own burdens.
The place where my sister found peace, beauty, and healing was in music. That is where the material world dissolved for her through seeing new harmonies and breathtaking melodies. Anyone who ever found the real Connie discovered her there, where musical invention came from her speaking to God and from God’s responses through Connie’s heart and down through her fingers at the keyboard.
My sister had a short temper and could, with little provocation, verbally julienne someone like a cat shredding window drapes. But, she also had a wonderful sense of humor, a generous heart, and a faith in God not often shaken, even by the enormous trials she faced.
I remember holding my sister in the little pink blanket used to bring her home from the hospital after her birth. I was seven years old. We became over time each other’s chief promoter and protector, and now that I will miss her, I am thankful for the fifty-eight years of memories we shared together. Thank God for Connie.
Just before she died Connie gave me a copy of the poem “On Playing Church Piano,” which she said expressed perfectly what she felt each time she sat at the keyboard on Sunday mornings.
On Playing a Church Piano
It’s something about the darkness of the place,
when I relax a moment to decide
what makes this work so pleasing; is it the thrill
of lights fixed on the tall bronze cross, or perhaps
the colored figures in the glass? But then
the stack of staves upon the stand cries out
for study, and my fingers arch again and dance,
though not gracefully at first — more like cautious
children avoiding creaky boards. Yet hidden strings
in the wood awake and sing –and the dark, cool room
seems full. And then I realize: It is.