Archive for the ‘trail markers’ Category

Despite the craziness, there was always music…

For as much as the home I grew up in was full of its own type of craziness and dysfunction (see previous post), our saving grace was music.  My parents were great music lovers, and I can barely remember a time that some kind of music was not playing in our house.  Both of my siblings played the piano beautifully (me, not so muClassical Musicch), and even though our old upright grand converted player piano was out-of-tune and permanently on sustain, the music that came out of it still rings in my heart.  My sister played everything from Chopin to show tunes.  My brother favored Beethoven. especially “Moonlight Sonata.”

One Christmas, we gave my dad a ukulele.  We all sat around, my sister on the flute, me playing maracas, and my brother on some goofy kazoo, playing Christmas carols.  Ah, family togetherness!  See what the music world missed?

I’ll never forget the year my sister bought a stereo record player for our family.  This was not a little “suitcase” record player: this was a piece of furniture, with a record player on one side, and an FM radio on the other.  It was always playing, especially at Christmas.

My dad purchased every “50 Great Classics” and  “25 Enduring Favorites” album that was sold on television, along  with the Firestone Christmas Albums that came out each year.  He loved the Mills Brothers, and the famous barbershop quartet, The Buffalo Bills.  We sang along with Mitch Miller and watched every musical variety show on TV.  Only recently did I learn that my dad conducted a community choir in the town where they lived before moving to my hometown.  He had a deep voice, similar to that of Bing Crosby…  I can’t hear “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” without thinking of my dad.

Now, my mom, while a lover of music, couldn’t carry a tune if it had handles.  I think her problem was that most songs were out of range for her low voice.  She was the victim of our teasing, but she laughed right along with us, and was ever-present at our choir concerts.

Stereo I would come home on Friday night with my latest purchase — a “45” of a top song that week — put it on the stereo and sing into the mirror holding my hairbrush as a mic.  Oh yes, I was that girl.

In my bedroom, I had an AM radio with a slim “pillow speaker” connected by a jack.  It could pickup clear-channel stations from as far away as Indiana (WOWO, Fort Wayne).  The music coming from under my pillow drowned out the arguments from downstairs.

Looking back, I believe that music was God’s gift to our family.  It brought peace, joy, and unity amidst fractured times. It brought solace and comfort.  It echos still with pleasant memories.

Surely music is one of God’s purest gifts of creation.  We use it to express our love to Him.  That’s because He first used music to express His love for us, and He has placed it deep within us.  In the book of Job, God tells us that He laid the cornerstone of the earth’s foundation, “…while the morning stars sang together.” (Job 38:7)  What would we give to hear that tune?  Do you suppose Adam and Eve did?

And in Zephaniah 3: 17, we see these beautiful words:

“The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save.  He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” (NIV)

I didn’t always know it was you singing.  But thank you, God, for the music.

(c) Copyright 2015 by Mary E. Egidio.  Permission is given to share, but with attribution, and not for commercial purposes.  

My Brother, My Friend*

*I wrote these thoughts one year ago, and shared them at my brother’s funeral the following day…

I’ve heard it said that your sibling is your first best friend, and that was certainly true for me and Dave.

Dave and MaryWe shared a bedroom in the early years, since our sister was 13 years older than I was.  I slept in a crib with the side taken off, and he slept in a twin bed.  But most nights, I ended up in bed with him.  My earliest memories are of us making shadow animals on the wall in the room.  I was probably 4 or 5, and he was 8 or 9.   He invented a contest, called, “see who can keep their hand up in the air longest”.. . but, of course, he had the wall on his side to help!

I adored my brother; followed him around our neighborhood.  If you’ve ever seen “To Kill a Mockingbird”, with the brother and sister Jem and Scout, that was us, only without nearly as much drama.  I distinctly remember him challenging me to jump across a creek or do something scary – simply by saying, “Come on, you can do it..”  then he’d count…   “One…” “No, I can’t, I’m scared!”, “Two…”, “I can’t, I can’t…”, “Three!” — and I’d jump!

When I got to school, on the first day when roll was taken, I’d inevitably hear, “Oh, you’re Dave’s sister.”  I was proud to say I was.  Little did I know how high he’d set the bar.  He was a National Merit Scholarship finalist, and I didn’t learn until much later that he’d been accepted at several high-profile universities, with big scholarships.  But my mom convinced him to stay closer to home instead.

As school kids we had separate bedrooms, as our sister had moved away, but that didn’t stop him from sharing his music through the wall.  When he was in high school he introduced me to the rock classics of the late 60’s: Santana, Cream, Credence Clearwater Revival, and other groups of the day. I was so proud when the band he was in, “The London Dock”, won the battle of the bands at our town’s sidewalk festival.  He was the keyboard man.  They did a mean “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.”

As we grew up and went our separate ways, we had less contact with each other..  but he always made the effort for important days.  He came to my college graduation, gave me away at my wedding.  And when my children came along, he never forgot their birthdays or Christmas.  They call him “Unkie Dave.”

And after we moved to Florida, I’d get a phone call when a hurricane was threatening.  In 2004, when four of them when right through our county, we talked a lot.

But it was Facebook that really helped us to connect, talk, and share our lives again.  He was able to see my kids and our grandson grow up through pictures and videos, and I was able to see his posts about music, animals, the things he loved.  (in the days and months after his passing, I connected with many of Dave’s Facebook friends who never actually met him face-to-face, but felt profound loss with his passing)

It’s been such a joy in these days to meet  and connect with the people he loved and who loved him.  His family, his co-workers, his Facebook friends…  And to hear your stories about my brother, and to know how much you loved and respected him.   He was a life-long learner, and it sounds like he shared that love of learning  and laughter with all of you.  Hearing your stories about him has challenged me to be more passionate about the things I love, and to make good use of the time I have left on this earth.

The last time I was in our home town was in 2003.  My daughter and I made a road trip from FL, and I came back for my 30th reunion and to see Dave.  One afternoon he took me for a hike on one of his favorite trails.  It was a beautiful day, and we had a great time talking and just enjoying nature.  At one point we had to cross a small stream, and he stepped across easily with his long legs,  and reached a hand back to help me jump over.  He didn’t have to count “one, two, three” this time, but my mind flashed back to those days when we wandered the neighborhood.

Now he’s made the crossing ahead of me again.  Easily.  Peacefully.

His last post on Facebook, on June 25th , (the night before his death)  was this..  “having given some folks their ‘fair share’ of harassment, I move along…”

And I’m waiting on the other side.   We all are.  Wishing, in a way, that we could follow.  But knowing we have to stay around for a while longer.

There won’t be anyone else in my life like Dave.  He was my first best friend.  I’ll miss him.


Life Is What Happens. . .

“I can’t believe we’re actually going to do this.”

It was Friday night. We were enjoying  a light dinner together at one of our favorite restaurants, talking about our plans for the upcoming week.  On the following  Thursday we would be flying to the Dominican Republic for Steve’s brother’s wedding.

We had spent the last month gathering appropriate wedding attire for a tropical beach ceremony.  Our travel plans were set.  We’d gotten out our passports, I was planning to brush up on my Spanish.  Mostly, we were looking forward to being with family, meeting our new sister-in-law, and making new friends.  At least, that was the plan.

But later that night, shortly after midnight, Steve woke me from a sound sleep.  “I’m sorry to wake you up, but I’ve been having chest pains for about an hour.”

In the span of a few hours, we exchanged wedding attire for hospital gowns, and passports for insurance cards.  Rather than Spanish, we were brushing up on  medical terms, and learning some new vocabulary:  troponin levels, EKG’s, cardiac catheterization, stent.   We still spent time talking with family–by phone– and made some wonderful new friends in the caregivers at the hospital.  Oh, and we even have pictures!  Before and after pictures of his heart, giving evidence of a once-blocked artery, now able to do its proper job.

The whole experience reminded me once again that life is what happens while we’re making other plans.

We’re not the first people on this earth whose plans have been upended.  The Bible is full of people who were rerouted on God’s highway.  Everyone from Joseph to Moses to the crippled beggar in front of the Beautiful Gate, suddenly found themselves on a different path than they’d set out upon. Through their experiences–detours and all–they gained a deeper level of trust and obedience.  They grew.  And we did, too.

I know that many good people experience difficult circumstances with sometimes devastating outcomes.  Why we were spared from what could have been far worse, I cannot say.  I only know this experience, and those of the past year, have caused us to appreciate so much more the family, friends, blessings, and opportunities that God has given us, by His grace and mercy.

Wedding or not, I think that’s the best gift anyone could receive.

Copyright 2013 Mary Egidio — Permission is granted to reproduce, but with attribution and not for commercial gain.