The Piano Teacher
Her body was full of cancer, but it was hard to tell.
She was still giving piano lessons and singing—like a bird on the cusp of a glorious dawn.
“My fingers just itch to be on those piano keys,” she said.
Never mind that the house was cluttered and dusty. It probably always had been.
“So much to do and so many interests.”
Her energy and talents would have been wasted in housecleaning.
This was our goodbye
“I’ll be with Jesus and there will be music!”
I asked her then to tell me about her lasting marriage; I believe she had been married for over sixty years. She gave a little shrug and looked me in the eye:
“He likes to throw his leg over me at night.”
She was serious. That was it. That’s all she said.
That one thing
I have never forgotten it. The simplicity of that one thing spoke volumes.
We are living in a time of abundance—abundant choices, abundant expectations, abundant possessions, abundant troubles and, if we look, abundant blessings.
So why the beauty in simplicity? Why did the “one thing” she said speak more to me than if she had said multiple things? Why are the lone flowers more photographed than the thousands in the field?
The “one” embodies strength, bravery, survival, commitment
Maybe our daughter’s piano teacher had a whole field of things to be thankful for in her marriage…or maybe not. Maybe it was just the one flower—after each long day, she and her husband drew close to one another.
The one plant growing in the burn:
Beauty for ashes
“To give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, that they may be called trees of righteousness….” Isaiah 61:3
Perhaps the beauty is in the embracing of one thing at a time, one moment at a time. Each blessing is counted one by one
We are called to thankfulness in the Bible. All day long. One thing at a time. Sometimes in a dark moment there might just be one glimmer of hope, one thing that keeps us hanging on. One whispered utterance of thankfulness. Other times we have an endless sea of flowers.
I liked that her “one thing” was unique; it wasn’t the answer I expected. She didn’t say: “he provides for me, he brings me coffee in bed, he buys me flowers on Valentine’s Day”, etc. It made me consider what the one thing might be in our marriage….
My Man hauls me along
Looking back with My Man, even to the very beginning, I appreciated that he wanted to be with me. I mentioned before how it annoyed me at times, because I like solitude, but altogether it made me feel loved.
There was a long spell, though, in our early marriage when I was dazed and withdrawing—like a turtle pulling its head back into its shell. There was no burst of energy to “set up house”, to take care of My Man or to be a keeper-of-our-home. I wasn’t the cheerful young wife, excited and willing. I was thinking of myself, lost in self-pity—wondering how my mellow nature would survive with my strong, General-type man.
Thankfully My Man was not having those dark thoughts. Remember that his storms blew over quickly? I was the introverted one. My Man was busy hunting; happily bringing home the meat while dreaming up another winter camping trip.
My Man is a fun uncle
If you own a wall tent, you better bring it out and use it. Especially in the winter because that’s what they are made for, after all
My Man thankfully wanted to haul me along with him and I rarely say no to the desert.
Here is where I start to learn from another Hiller wife
My Man planned the trip to the high desert of northern California and Nevada. He invited his brother, his brother’s young family, and another friend. This will only begin to show you how strong my sister-in-law is: she happily packed up her two young sons and everything needed to survive with them on a winter camping trip.
My sister-in-law and her two boys
The wall tent thankfully had a wood stove—our only creature comfort. None of us had accumulated all of the fancy camping gear at that point. We didn’t all have down sleeping bags or nifty quick-cooking-stoves. Cooking and cleaning were a challenge on that trip.
I was in my own little world
I remember helping cook breakfast one of the mornings, but I think that was about it. I’m sure it was very difficult to care for and entertain young ones in that environment and I was shamefully unhelpful to her.
Rather than helping, I was having a great time out gallivanting through the snowy desert on my snowshoes. One of my favorite hobbies is to hike…wander…meander…. My husband still wonders how I can have so much fun at such a slow speed.
My sister-in-law handled the trip like a champ while I was out looking after my own interests. There was a “what for” moment coming in my future.
A “what for” is an exaggeration, but My Man was definitely disappointed in my behavior on that trip. Without saying it, I knew he was embarrassed at my selfishness and lack of help with our nephews. There was no “servant’s heart” while I was out traipsing through the desert.
(An archaic application of the word traipse is to a “slovenly woman”…fitting isn’t it?)
I had a lot to learn
I shed joyful, thankful tears easily these days when thinking of my brother and sister-in-law. He is a fun, strong, hardworking Hiller-man like my husband—as masculine as they come. My sister-in-law is a wonderful support to him, with all the work that living on a ranch entails.
They have raised three hardworking, amazing kids. One chose the most wonderful future wife (I’m not exaggerating) and they are getting married later this month, one is serving our country as a Marine and one just worked for and paid for her own first car.
One of the greatest blessings in my life is marrying into the Hiller family. We all continue to support each other on this journey to godliness.
Johnson Oatman, Jr. wrote:
“Count your blessings, name them one by one…count your many blessings see what God has done.”
How interesting that I share a birthday with Oatman, as my life Bible verse is:
“In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
1 Thessalonians 5:18
May we all take the time to offer thanks to God, one thing at a time.
In my next post My Man offered to haul me along, but I sadly missed the adventure.