Anna loved music. She loved listening to it. She loved hearing stories about composers. She loved dancing to it. And she loved making it. She and Samuel are both very gifted in music. Samuel has a beautiful voice. Anna sang with a great deal of passion (as she did everything), but her real gift was on the piano and, had she had the chance, would have been on the violin.
Anna had a love affair with the violin. It was not too different than her attitude about peaches. When we were in Indonesia Anna would say repeatedly that she wanted to return to America so she could eat peaches. She loved peaches. She would talk about peaches and dream about peaches. But then one day I remember her asking her mother, “Do I like peaches?” It turned out that Anna did not remember ever eating a peach, but that she had developed this image of peaches as something not in Indonesia. To her, a peach represented America. It represented something new. A can of peaches was something that came in a gift box from America. To a certain extent, the violin was the same thing. She had heard violins. She knew that violins were beautiful to listen to. They were beautiful to look at. But she had never played one before. We told Anna that when she grew a little older she could begin taking violin lessons. We found a teacher in Indonesia. We found out where we could buy the instrument. We were just waiting for the right time.
In the meantime, we came home for Christmas in 2007. In our time here we visited my brother in Chicago. His daughter, Emily, is an accomplished violinist. She is in high school now and has been playing in a local youth symphony outside of Chicago for a number of years. She has traveled to Spain with the orchestra and this year will go to Italy. While we were in Chicago she gave Anna a lesson. It was a long lesson. They played together for several hours. When they were finished, Emily came in and said, “She is very good. She just went through the first few months of lessons in a few hours.”
When we returned to Indonesia Anna said she was ready. Anna was already taking piano and voice lessons and we did not want to add a third music lesson. So we wanted to wait until we finished with one of the others. But Anna persisted, “If you get me the violin now, I know enough from what Cousin Emily taught me that I can teach myself.” I knew Anna and I knew that she was right. She loved to practice. She was smart. She had a good ear. She could figure it out.
But still we waited. After Anna’s accident Timberley and I told people that we had no regrets in the way that we raised Anna. There was nothing that we looked back on and said, “We wished we had done such and such.” But I was wrong. I wish I had gotten the violin for Anna.
The big story in the news yesterday was about an airliner that crashed into the Hudson River in New York. The pilot is a hero today because of the way he handled the emergency and saved the lives of all the passengers. I listened to a radio program last night and the host said that the lives of all those passengers will be changed forever. He said that they of course will be happy that they have survived the crash, but the lasting change in their lives will come because they will now have perspective on the brevity of life. They will know that life is something precious that can be taken away at a moment’s notice.
For the Christian, this should not be news. The Bible is clear and persistent in the message that our life is like a vapor. With the cold weather we have been having lately the visible vapor from our breath may last a little longer than normal, but it still fades in just a few seconds. So does our life. The Bible says we are like grass that withers. Like a flower that fades away.
Our life is too brief. Don’t wait to make music.