Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: LUST (all-consuming desire; excessive craving) (01/08/15)
- TITLE: Lusty Strings
By Carolyn Ancell
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“How are you, Jill?” I would ask. “Marvelous!” she would always reply. She played her violin for service, like she did everything in life, with gusto, determination, and artistry. She cajoled other senior citizen musicians into joining her with their violins; and together, with me as church pianist, we created a joyous little orchestra every weekend. Until that awful day when we learned that Jill had been diagnosed with small cell carcinoma and was dying. She went fast; and no one could quite believe she was gone, her lust for life having been so enormous that death didn’t seem to fit her.
Her companions continued on, faithful despite their frailties. Then one day John, one of Jill’s original recruits, could no longer be with us. He had had a heart attack and then a fall, and was to be confined to a wheelchair in a nursing home. Frank, another recruit visited him regularly, and reported back, sadly, that John was depressed. “I’ve got to get him to play his violin!” said Frank. “That would cheer him up.” John refused, until one day when he said reluctantly that he would give it one more try. Frank wheeled him to the nursing home dining room, and John played. And laughed and talked and was once again brimming with life and his love of music and playing for others. Frank returned John to his room, and tucked him in for the night. John was smiling as he drifted off to sleep and died.
Pablo Casals, perhaps the greatest cellist who ever lived, in his 90’s was so crippled with arthritis that he could hardly move. Until he was helped to a chair and handed his cello. Each time that he began again to play, his pain and stiffness melted away. His love for beautiful music was his cortisone, the substance that bid him to daily cast off his afflictions, and play for the world as he always had, with passion, limitless and free.
As I enter now my eighth decade on this earth, assessing my own pains and limitations, I look to Jill and John, and Casals, and understand that in order to age with grace, I must still live with gusto. The arthritis in my back and feet do loosen up a bit each morning as I work my way out of bed to the coffee pot. The arthritis in my aging spirit does fall to the wayside as I then make my way to the current instrument of choice, my harp. As I load the harp in the car to go play for hospice patients or nursing home residents, my heart does open to possible encounters, relationships and life-stories that I would not experience should I simply stay home and be “retired.” Returning home, my body may need a catnap before beginning to prepare supper, but my spirit is full of joy, and I am grateful.
Violins and harps aren’t the only instruments with strings. There are many others; and there are those that might be dusted off, resurrected, and played again. And then there are our “heart strings,” those strings that when plucked in prayer, sharing and service, release our deepest feelings and most loving conversations and actions. No matter what our age or afflictions, let us wake each day to play those strings. With grace. And gusto. And gratitude.
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