Friday, February 26, 2010

It Doesn't Matter What You Play, It's How You Play It

My mom Ruth passed away five years ago today at the age of 86, a remarkable woman who would be mad at me for telling her age. But I can also tell of her vivacious personality, her caring heart, and her music.

She took what little she had and ran with it. Mom was born in 1919 in Fort Worth, Texas, an only child. Her father was a grocer who was often paid in chickens and eggs and once a very annoying canary. They lived above the store behind a mattress factory, and my grandmother taught piano to make ends meet. Mom played both piano and violin, playing for the first time on radio at the age of five. Her dad died when she was a senior in high school. Mom worked her way through college by hosting a live early morning radio show. She married a fighter pilot who was shot down over Germany eight months later. She went New York, earned her Master's degree in music and played on early television. She married my dad, a PhD research chemist. They had four children, but Mom kept up her music through orchestra work, teaching, and concerts. My grandmother came to "hold down the fort" when my oldest brother was born.

To those who knew Mom, those are just the bare bone facts. I struggled when I was younger, because Mom wasn't like everyone else. At the time, I just didn't grasp what she was trying to teach me: Love God, love people, and lead an extraordinary life. My mom would have cut her right arm off for just about anyone. That made some people uncomfortable. An ordinary life didn't fit.

At the top of my grandmother's piano lesson plans was written, "It doesn't matter what you play, it's how you play it." Mom took that motto to heart. In the 1980s, I went with Mom to have her violin appraised for insurance. Everyone has always remarked at the amazing tone of her violin. She carried it everywhere because she was so afraid it would be stolen. We dropped it off and returned several hours later. "This violin is hardly worth a thing," the appraiser said. There are thousands of people who were blessed through the years who would disagree vehemently. It's how she played it.

Mom is no longer here. But we know where she is. She loved God, loved people, and she's gone Home.

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