"For unto us a child is born; unto us a son is given..." The strains of Handel's Messiah fill my office/sewing room as I wrap gifts, make doll clothes for a granddaughter and finish up my year-end bookkeeping. Music has always been an integral part of my Christmas celebration, synonymous with the joy of shepherds "watching over their flocks by night" and my younger self leaning over a balcony railing to see the Nutcracker prince defeat the evil mouse king. There are many things lost with chronic illness, but music, whether on a frosty Christmas morning or in the middle of a painful summer night, has the power to calm the troubled heart and sooth the hungry soul.
My friend Celia with MCS knows firsthand the balm of music. No longer able to lead the music in her church congregation because of recently laid (glued down) carpet, her home is nevertheless filled with many a "joyful noise." Her son, now with a family of his own, plays the piano and her daughter Cati is a harpist. Cati gets no complaint from her mother when her regular evening job and additional church performances this time of year require her to put in longer hours of practice. Celia's younger daughter Carrie came to their family from Romania nine years ago, a five-year-old unable to speak English. Yet, within her was the musical heritage of her ancestors, the universal language through which she so beautifully expresses herself on her violin. At a recent "Christmas Around the World" church activity, Carrie, somewhat unsure of herself in other realms, was able to speak the thoughts and feelings that she finds more difficult to express with words. And when Cati and Carrie weave their music together in duets, Heaven is truly in that home.
Music has changed for me over the years. Like Celia, I once directed the music in church meetings and, for many years, sat at the organ. Throughout the year, but especially at Christmas time, my cello was part of a piano trio performing for church gatherings, wedding receptions and business parties. When arthritis, fibromyalgia and chemical sensitivities put an end to my performance days, I mourned the loss. However, the art of listening has replaced the hours of practice and more than filled the void. My ears have learned new rhythms and the subtle nuances of counterpoint in a Beethoven symphony inspire me to notice the details in other aspects of my life. And, despite my limitations, the piano in my living room does not sit idle all the time. My own daughter often sits down to play when she is here to visit, and these old hands of mine can still pound out a pretty fair rendition of "Jingle Bell Rock" and "Up on the Housetop" when five-year-old Morgan calls out, "Grandma, Grandma, play me some music!"