The process of letting go is like taking a journey to the center of your being.
Darren L. Johnson
Darren L. Johnson
Occasionally I have “Aha!” moments in my life. This experience is one of how I let go of caring what people think and learned life lessons from a dear friend on what to value in life…
I sing. I love singing but I’ve always been a bit self conscious about it. I am not a professional or anything but I have had the opportunity to be heard here and there. I have been singing since I was a little girl. In children’s choirs, in my teens I put myself through classical vocal training, in my 20s I sang at parties and weddings, when my dance company toured and we needed live music, I sang. After getting married I sang in an adult choir but once I started having children, singing as a hobby went on the back burner.
Then, one day during my second maternity leave, I ran into a cheerful lady after working out at the gym. She was retired and perhaps a little younger than my mother. I recognized her because she led the choir at the church I occasionally attended and her choir was pretty good. Her and I got talking about music and she asked me to join the choir.
It would be a huge time commitment for me because that would mean I’d have to be there every week. With two young kids, it was really hard for me to make time on weekends. But, I figured, hey, why not. I like singing and it’s probably a good idea that I get out and do something for myself on regular basis. Plus, going to church is never a bad idea, right?
Once I joined the choir leader gave me a lot of solos and made me the back-up conductor when she was away. It was fun but the time commitment for practices and masses took me away from my family more than I was used to.
My husband was very supportive and didn't mind that I was away a few hours on weekends but one thing that did bother me was, I noticed many of the choir members showing indifference to me and some being downright nasty. For example, there’s a part of the mass where you’re supposed to shake each other’s hand and greet each other peace…and get this…they would ignore me!
After the first few weeks of excusing it as, “Oh, maybe they didn’t see me extending my hand.” It became painfully obvious, they were not interested in being at “peace” with me. I hadn’t felt so rejected since high school!
Eventually, the high school behaviour towards me worsened and the anti-peace offering became more apparent. Finally, I thought to myself, I didn’t need this. I could get people who hate me and politics from work! I didn’t need it at church where I’m supposed to leave feeling at least a little bit better when the service is over.
So, I quit the choir and went to a different mass as a regular attendee with my family. I did however stay good friends with the choir leader lady.
Even after I quit, she made it a point to call me regularly. She would make time to have lunch with me. Visit me at work. I even got her a job at my organization for a short time. She always hoped I’d return to help her lead and sing the solos again. She said she treated me like her daughter. And I loved her like my mom. Eventually, I confessed to her that the reason I didn’t enjoy the choir was because of how some of the other members made me feel and I really didn’t need the ridiculous choir politics in addition to the demands of raising my young family and returning to work.
She told me that she knew this behaviour was going on. Other members told her about it and she already asked the negative people in the choir to leave. That it would be different when I returned. I still didn’t because I had established a routine with my family and didn’t want to change it, yet.
One day, after not hearing from her for a few weeks, she texted me before Christmas to let me know she was going to Florida to visit family for the holidays. She wished me a Merry Christmas and made plans to get together after she returned. One thing about this lady, whenever she’d go away, she always remembered me or brought me back a little something from wherever she traveled. Even if I hadn’t seen her for ages.
This time, after her vacation she returned from her trip, but didn’t call. Weeks later I got a call from the choir pianist’s wife that upon her return, she caught pneumonia and passed away on her birthday. My friend had died.
I was devastated. It was so fast...
They asked me to return to sing with the choir at her memorial and funeral. I came back and sang.
Funny thing…at the funeral reception someone at my table remembered me from when I was previously with the choir. She asked me why I left. I said, because I found that some of the members behaviour didn’t make the choir experience enjoyable. Then she said she noticed I had sung at the memorial and funeral and asked if I was returning. I said yes. She asked, “Did something, change?” I said, “Yes…now I don’t care.”
I had a wonderful relationship with the choir leader lady. It has been almost a year since her passing.
At first I carried huge regrets that I didn’t get to spend more time with her. But I realize now that a lot of the lessons that I needed to learn from her, the things she wanted me to know, still come from her through the way she lived her life. I’ve learned more from her after her passing as I did when she was around:
- I care about maintaining strong relationships with a few close people
- Not burdening myself by judging others
- Not caring so much about disappointing people I hardly know or being liked by them
- Using my talents less for the recognition from others and more for the sake of sharing and giving back to the community
She was trying to get me to share my music with the church and community and I was thinking at the micro-level of how I was being treated by a few short-sighted people. Yet, she never judged me or got upset with me because I didn’t see this yet. I think she knew I would figure it out.
On the day of her funeral, I was alone at home tidying up before I left and I said out loud, “You know?…You never got to hear me sing this one…” and I belted out Puccini’s O Mio Babbino Caro. When I got into the my car to leave for her funeral I turned on the radio and yes…O Mio Babbino Caro was the first song that I heard playing on the radio. Shivers and joy ran through me. She heard me and I’m so thankful she came into my life.