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A piano lesson in the key of Life

From the April 9, 2018 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel


I learned to play the piano on my mother’s Steinway in the living room. It was a big, beautiful piano with a grand and resonant sound, and she cherished it. Because we both deeply loved music, and she knew I would play it, she left the piano to me in her will. 

When she passed, I struggled hard with a sense of loss and grief. So the idea that I would at least have her lovely piano to play gave me a certain degree of comfort. But a few weeks after our mother died, my sister called me and expressed a desire to have the piano. 

I was stunned and didn’t know how to respond. The piano was, after all, supposed to go to me, and my sister knew it. Furthermore, I wanted it just as much as she did, or so I thought. We agreed to consider how to proceed and to talk again in a few days. 

I needed to get quiet. I was really off balance about this. I needed to be still and prayerful and listen for the right answer—that much I knew right away. I loved my sister and wanted to be fair in all things, and yet the thought persisted: That piano is supposed to be mine. So, after spending some time ruminating over the situation and wondering what to do, I finally got down on my knees mentally and physically, bowed my head, and simply asked God, my ever-present, divine Mother, Love, what I should do about the piano.

I was allowing myself to see her spiritual, eternal nature.

The answer that came was immediate and crystal clear. I can still remember standing in the stairwell, looking out the back window at the snow covering our lawn, and feeling a sense of complete and utter delight because I knew exactly what to do: “Give your sister the piano.” I didn’t even feel the need to second-guess the decision. It was final—because what I realized in those moments on my knees in prayer was that what my mother wanted me to have was not a big black polished thing with strings and white keys. What she wanted both my sister and me to have was music. And I realized that her piano absolutely did not contain the music; it simply expressed it. Furthermore, I would always have music—regardless of whether I had that piano or not.

I called my sister back the next day and told her with complete joy and certainty that the piano should be hers. She was happy and grateful, of course, but I have to admit, I felt as if I was the one who got the real gift—and the blessing wasn’t over yet. 

During those quiet moments of prayer, another recognition had occurred that I couldn’t have foreseen. In releasing the piano in favor of the real gift—the music—I was also letting go of a limited, material sense of my mother. I was releasing my concept of her as physical and limited to a human form, and allowing myself to see her spiritual, eternal nature as the reflection of endless Life. This recognition was the beginning of a larger, gradual-but-steady surrendering of all grief. 

Over the years, music has continually showed up in my life in the most unexpected and wonderful ways, bringing new meaning, friendships, projects, and beauty into my experience. Later I was given a lovely smaller piano that was easily moved and perfectly suited to our family’s needs. 

As I reflect on this experience, it’s not lost on me that had I not surrendered that big black curvy thing with the satin finish, I might not have learned so beautifully the larger lesson—that the music of my mother’s love had never been confined to a mere physical presence. The qualities she expressed—having their source in God—would continue to play on.

This was a precious lesson for me, and I continue to learn from it. I give full credit to my study of Christian Science for the healings I’ve had and the insights I’ve gained. I’m thankful to both my parents for raising me to love and live Christian Science. Mary Baker Eddy, in discovering and sharing this Science—this amazing understanding of Christ and Christianity—gave us precisely the ideas we need to rise above human grief and loss. I am humbled by the practice of it and grateful for the truth it teaches. 

Life never leaves us. Life is Soul, God. No one can ever be without Life—its beauty and expressiveness—any more than I could have been without music, even though my mother’s piano was not parked in my living room. 

Life continues to play on—express itself—and we reflect it. Love is operating all around us and meeting our needs in just the right ways, while the melody of Soul reminds us moment by moment how dearly and completely we are loved.

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