Last Sunday I attended the 5 o’clock service at St. Columba’s Episcopal Church in the District. I went to hear Bex perform a piano recital. Bex is an accomplished pianist who went to college on a music scholarship in piano. (All photos credit Jeanne.)
Jeanne invited me to come. This is her church. Although I grew up an Episcopalian, they are not my favorite people these days after my experience at The Falls Church in my hometown. The youth minister there came to testify against me at the two-day custody trial in my divorce, participating in my ex-wife's effort to legally strip me of my parenthood. They lost.
This was Bex’s first public performance in fifteen years. Her layoff seemed to have no effect that I could discern.
She gave a recital at the Prelude and the Postlude for the Holy Eucharist. This was arranged after Jeanne and Bex participated in bell ringing at St. Columba’s.
I was honored to have been asked to attend. Due to unanticipated traffic at Chain Bridge, I was three minutes late in arriving at this beautiful church in Tenleytown.
I walked in and sat down in a pew in the back. The service was underway, and I saw Jeanne, Bex and E, all seated off to the side of the altar over by the organ, near where the church piano was.
It was a long service. From my seat on the hard bench with its steep back, I examined the spacious interior of the church and its myriad dark, colorful stained glass windows. I read through parts of the Book of Common Prayer. This spiritual aid gave me much comfort during the period when my father was dying from lung cancer when I was 34.
I listened to the reverend give his sermon, which was about Global Warming, for heaven's sake. I also heard him speak about the concept of forgiveness.
I started thinking about forgiveness in relation to my three estranged sons, all now young adults. As children, they actively and ferociously litigated against me along with their Mother during the four years of divorce proceedings. "Their" case was thrown out as a "harassment" suit, although that particular litigation dragged on for another nerve-wracking two years when their Mother appealed her sanction.
Reflecting upon forgiveness in the serene setting of this happy church was an awakening of sorts for me. I felt my love for my children fill me despite the shattering financial and emotional drain I had gone through in the last half decade, of which they played a large part.
Pleased with these warm and fuzzy thoughts, I read the service notes. Uh-oh.
There it was in the program, the very first line. At The Gathering, Prelude of Invention in B flat Major, J.S. Bach, by Bex, Piano. I had already missed half of her recital. Dammit!
The service eventually concluded and The Postlude came. Dismissal, Postlude of Sinfonia in B minor, J.S. Bach, by Bex, Piano. I slid over in my pew so I could watch and hear Bex perform. It was lovely.
The splendid music washed soothingly over me. Bex’s long black hair framed her face and masked the intense concentration she gave to her music. Her fingers flowed gracefully and rapidly over the keyboard as comforting sound filled the church for a few minutes. Then, too soon, in the hushed, expectant atmosphere she had created, the last piano notes faded away. The congregation applauded loudly.
Outside, I joined Jeanne, Bex and E and gave my confession that I had been late and missed the opening piece. Bex lit up and insisted that she would play it again. The four of us re-entered the darkened church, turned the lights back on, and listened, enthralled, as Bex played the Prelude again for us. It was a wonderful, long moment.
Afterwards, E treated us to food and a relaxing drink at a nearby restaurant on Wisconsin Avenue. We spent a delightful hour talking about, well, California. Not that I know a whole lot about that country. Bex and E are moving back there later this year. We’ll miss them.
Bex and I have had some memorable runs. Thanks for the added memory of listening to you play music, Bex.