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Mae and Jackson, 1992

Yes, there are stacks and stacks of music in my house right now—seventy years of music, in fact. It’s too easy to miss the gift of the music between all the tasks on my to-do list. No matter how numerous these physical pieces of music are, however, they are just a small part of the musical legacy my mother gave to me, my brother, and my cousins, as well as to her students and those who benefitted from her music in the church and community.

I realize I’ve chosen to let Mom’s music dominate my house right now. I guess I could just give it away sight unseen and be done with the work and be able to reclaim my space, but I won’t. For all the times I have despaired that I will never get through the boxes, I am reluctant to give up these very tangible reminders of my connection to her.

Music was at the very heart of who my mother was. She kept the songs in her heart and in her piano hands until about 18 months before she died. No wonder she was so lost—when had she ever been without her music?

When have I ever lived without hearing her music? Not until the last two years. The silence is stifling.

Yet, when I put on my music organizing hat, I start to forget how the music died within her. Instead, I am singing—either in my head or out loud—the songs I heard performed by her choirs or that she taught my own choirs or that she played in church.

Mae in family choir, 2001

I see her directing—always directing—even when she didn’t know she was doing it. Her posture is erect and she smiles as her hand moves in time to the music. She is in her element, radiating joy as she leads others in music.

True music teachers infect us with music so much so that we can never get free from it again. The songs become part of who we are until we die, unless the hard drives of our brains begin to rewrite over themselves, as my mother’s did.

The younger musicians who have helped me with this project are just as infected as I am—someone taught them music, too, and now it is part of who they are. I will be forever grateful to Mona, my nephew’s girlfriend, and Charles, Christiana’s friend, because not only did they put in the work, but also they couldn’t help bursting out in song while they sorted and filed. My mother would have loved them both for loving her music, too.

Grandson Chris and his mother Lori making music at Mom's wake.

But that’s the thing about legacies—they continue long after we are gone.

Not sure where all her music will end up, but I know such treasure needs to be shared. My mother did give me the kind of gift I love to give away.

The sounds of “la, la, la, la, la . . . ” will continue in my head forever more.


(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

My moods have continued to be fairly stormy, thanks to my response to the aches that increased again after going through Mom’s storage unit. I promise I followed doctor’s orders and didn’t do much lifting, so the pain I’ve felt since that weekend has been very disappointing (OK—that’s just a bland word I chose to avoid the depth of the emotional abyss I’ve fallen into again as I ponder the what ifs of not getting better in the ways I wish.)

Maybe this time the pain is more emotional than strictly related to physical activities I’ve done. After all, I’ve only touched the surface of saying how badly I felt about cleaning my house nicely for company only to have the project undo everything I did as well as add more “crap” to my patio, family room, and “to do” list. To tell you the truth, the cleaning project left me more angry at my mother for the tasks I’ve been given than sad for losing her—that’s how badly this project colored my emotions.

When I last left off with the chiropractor a few hours before Scott’s family arrived, my hips were looking and feeling better. The plan was for me to wear my trochanter belt during the organizing, but to let others do the heavy-lifting. And with my improvements, we stretched out the days between appointments, plus, the chiropractor wanted me to do a short jog (wearing the belt) the day before the next meeting. In other words, I was supposed to try moving on.

All I can say is that when I woke up a week ago after the weekend project, my body acted as if it hadn’t gotten the memo. I, in fact, felt stuck again. Really, the pains running up and down my legs reminded me of the initial pains before I’d gotten any treatment at all. So while I could experience pain running through my body, I doubted that I myself could experience running.

None of my exercises during the week helped me feel better and walking seemed only to increase the pain.

But I tried to keep doing the things I either must do or was going to do anyway. Yesterday I watched with jealous eyes as an energetic woman at church moved back and forth with a pace that I often maintained just two months ago. For me, the throbbing following the standing activity at church forced me to lie down before meeting with the animal behaviorist for a scheduled long walk in the park with Sam. And then I needed to return home for more lounging before I could hope to head to a fireworks display we’d planned to attend.

Sherman dropped off Christiana and me. Luckily, I could walk the short distance, albeit at a slow pace. However, while listening to the patriotic strains from the Colorado Symphony and watching the creatively choreographed light and firework show that colored and lit up the white Civic Center building, my mind often slipped to my own limited independence. On the way home, I could not even keep up with the other two and had to stop and wait to be picked up.

The thought that I could jog even 10 minutes this morning seemed absurd. And yet, what did I have to lose?

So I strapped on that belt, did some very targeted stretching exercises, and then set my feet in motion—over two months after my last run and two months and one day after I returned from my road trips and discovered my body could not move.

This time my body moved, even if the movements themselves felt a little foreign. I watched my shadow, looking for signs of improper form and adjusting when necessary. Not quite an out of body experience, but I felt a little distant from my running self. Still, I was moving much faster than I did with the halting steps I took the previous night.

Just over 13 minutes later, I stopped and began alternating between stretching and gentle walking. The tension that has recently shortened my walking stride had taken a hike and the muscles felt more relaxed.

Could it be that not running is the problem now?

Tomorrow I return to the chiropractor to see if my hips remained in place; stable hips are what’s really needed to bring about my own independence. I still long for those miles before I sleep, especially if they are what will help me return to making all the other movements missing from my life now.

Just can’t wait to get back on the road to independence.

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