Stephanie (middle) and I met in the comments sections of Donna’s (right) blog, Quiet Life. We had many “you, too?” moments when we discovered that we both loved music, particularly hymns, specifically Ralph Vaughan Williams, and what about this phrase in For All the Saints.
Kindred was a word Steph and I kept using to describe our relationship. We both had moments, those capsules of time where everything outside the moment turns all fuzzy and bokeh, when the overwhelming beauty of words—usually expressed musically—envelops you. “Repeat” is a necessary function when we can’t get enough of a new song, even after twenty listens. We know what it is to play the piano (and organ, for Steph) through tears of sheer joy. One of Steph’s favorite lines is lost in wonder, love, and praise.
It’s inexplicable, isn’t it, how music extracts deep pockets of pain and sharp piercings of joy and distills them into beauty. How tendrils of music reach deep into the soul and loosen the packed-together clumps. How a tune can both move and paralyze you. How an unexpected chord progression makes all your muscles go slack in amazement. How sound waves can physically alter your body. (I speak here of goosebumps.)
So my sister Dorothy and I drove three hours through autumnal wonder to share three hours with Steph, Donna, and Donna’s daughter Katie. Lunch at the the local Mexican restaurant was a minuet of conversation, stories and laughter. It must’ve taken us a half hour to get to the point where we could look at menus and order. After lunch we went to Stephanie’s church, Trinity Episcopal, where a pipe digital organ was recently installed. I can say with conviction that I have never seen a more beautiful small church. It is, from this day, my picture of Lord’s Chapel when I read Jan Karon’s Mitford books.
The first long hug, the shared meal, the photos outside—all these were a delightful prelude. But when I heard my current favorite hymn, Only Begotten, on a pipe organ played by a friend who has music threaded throughout her DNA, I took deep drinks of truth, goodness, and beauty. Because it was not a formal concert, I could squeal when she moved from one key to another (modulation in musicspeak) with a gorgeous sequence of chords. Stop! How did you do that? And she translated.
My current definition of heaven is this: a gifted and beloved friend playing my requests on the pipe digital-but-sounds-like-pipe organ.
I cried…joyful tears.
I hurt…because beauty is sharp and shining.
I sang…because how could I keep from singing?
Steph moved to the keyboard and the magic continued. She weaves O, the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus in a way that you hear the ocean currents. As we sang and listened there were undercurrents of understanding, unspoken connections. We sang Donna’s favorite, How Great Thou Art. Before we could quite catch a breath, our time was over, and I was wondering if it was a dream or for reals.
Donna blogged about our meeting, with fabulous pictures, here.
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May I add a bit about Katie?
Inside my head, I call some people BIO-[insert name].
Katie is BIO-Katie.
Beautiful, inside and out.
She was gracious when I said, upon meeting her,
“I feel like I know you, Katie!”
All her mom’s fans say that.
Note to self: next time say something more original.
She was engaged, thoughtful, and articulate,
contributing to our conversations.
Clearly, she is cherished.
Her presence added to an already special day.
It was great to meet you, Katie.