This year has seen quite a lot of endings. Too many endings. Too many deaths. And it’s only May. I keep telling myself that the year is going to turn around, and truly wonderful things are going to start happening. Maybe they have been all along. Actually, I know they have been, because otherwise the people who have passed on since January 1, wouldn’t have made such an impact on us. Both their lives, and their passing. Like Professor Reyes. He had been Jonah’s piano teacher, and I cannot express to you how deeply we have been affected by his death. He had become like family to us, and was a friend. He passed in February, and on the very last day of April, Jonah gave the opening remarks at his memorial service. It couldn’t have been an easy thing to do, but he handled it beautifully. The whole service was beautiful. It was a large church, and it was full – as you might expect of such a teacher and musician – of people whose lives had been deeply touched by him and his music. The service was perfect; it was humble, but in an almost grand kind of way – much like the man, himself. Humble, but what he could do and what he passed on to his students was grand. Bigger than himself, and given freely and easily. One of the people who got up to speak talked of how he “cast his bread on the water”, and “look at what was returned” so many lives touched by his. During the service, Jonah’s first piano teacher, Professor Reyes’s great-niece, played Clair de Lune. It was beautiful; and it was profound, because it is the piece Jonah is learning with his new teacher. It was almost as if some sort of unspoken blessing was being given. The first piece with the new was the sending off of the former – two former, in fact.
As his ashes were carried out, someone played the National Anthem of the Philippines, which we were told was what Professor Reyes always played as an encore, and interspersed in the crowd of mourners – voices singing along. Soft. Almost sprinkled throughout. So beautiful, so honest, and so moving.
Last week, at the 5th grade Spring Concert, Jonah played the last piece he worked on with Professor Reyes. He died before they could finish working on it, and Jonah refused to introduce it to his new teacher, because “It was Professor Reyes’s, and I don’t want anyone else to ‘mess’ with it.” It was a Romance by Tchaikovsky that Professor Reyes said he played when he was a boy, and never forgot. It always “just stuck” with him. Anyway, Jonah continued to work on it on his own & decided to play it for the school concert. And he did – on an out of tune old piano whose keys sometimes wouldn’t play and you could barely hear from the audience; and with the prayer card from the memorial service tucked neatly in his shirt pocket “for luck”. And it was magical. At least for us. And another ending; heartfelt and humble.
Also this month was the memorial service for “Grandpa Walker”. He was my uncle’s father. He was a fixture in my life, and he was a-for-real-honest-to-goodness spy. There were no martinis at his service, though – shaken or stirred – no one crashed through a window, no one talking into their sleeve, and no watches with grappling hooks and saw blades. There *was* a table filled with photographs and medals, and plaques for service from the NSA and Laurel police force. There was a lot about Grandpa Walker that I didn’t know. There was a lot about Grandpa Walker that his own kids didn’t know, and there’s a lot about Grandpa Walker that no one without the proper clearance will ever know. We were assured by a couple of former co-workers that though they can’t tell us why, we should all be both proud of and extremely grateful for his service to this country, some which is still relevant today. That’s good enough for me. I did learn that during the civil unrest in the area, when race was a bigger issue than today and when he was a police officer, he was the *only* police office that was trusted by both the black and white communities. Also, that when his daughter was asked by her friend (who happened to be black) to the school dance, he personally escorted them so that no one would give them any trouble, and they could just “go and have a good time like kids are supposed to do”. I wonder how many fathers would have done that at the time. I wonder how many fathers would do that today… I also learned that he was truly a man of God and did QUITE a bit in service to his church. The hall we were sitting in was *his* vision, and he never even brought it up. But I guess spies are used to keeping quiet about things. Or maybe it was because that was just the kind of guy he was. Unassuming, and a man of integrity.
His service was attended by a much, much smaller, but equally diverse group of people. It was also humble, and honest – and though not grand, the things he accomplished in his life sure seemed to be. He also scattered his bread on the water, though much more quietly – that was his job, after all, to be quiet – and the over-all effect was the same: an out-pouring of love, because he gave of himself freely and easily.
Two very different men on the surface, and two very different services. I have been made a better person by the bread each cast, and I am so very grateful.