Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Postlude

I've been thinking a lot about my Dad lately. Actually I think about him every time I practice the organ, and I really miss him. I have only been learning the organ since January. I play once a month in Church and, luckily, I get to choose the hymns we sing that day.

The song that I prepared for the closing hymn last Sunday had been put off for two months. I just couldn't quite get my pedaling to coordinate with my hands, but I practiced and practiced and finally was ready. Of course, when it was time to play, I blew it. Of the four verses sung, maybe one was played accurately. Nerves. Those horrid nerves.

I knew I could play it perfectly. I had done it so many times before (when I was all alone.) The closing prayer was said, and instead of the postlude I had planned, I played that fickle hymn and I did it perfectly. Three times! No one in the congregation even noticed what I was trying to prove (and that really was OK), but my friend/teacher silently joined me on the stand and sat patiently until I was done. She smiled and understood exactly. Her quiet support that morning was the morale boost I needed. I am grateful she listened.

My dad had been a Church organist off and on for more than 50 years. This he did strictly on a volunteer basis because he loved good music and understood its power. He was a wonderful organist who truly blessed the congregation each time he played. He was meticulous in his practicing and in his playing. Finding the perfect registration for each song was always the goal and forgoing the pedals was NOT an option.

Often on Saturday mornings Dad would rise early and head to the meeting house to practice. In his early years it wasn't hard for him to practice four hours at a time. Playing the organ brought him great joy and even greater joy to those who were privileged to hear him.

Another reason my dad has been in my thoughts this week is that Tuesday marked the anniversary of his death from prostate cancer. (Yes, I have had WAY too much cancer in my life. I recently wrote about my brother here.)

The chemotherapy had resulted in neuropathy in Dad's feet which caused numbness, weakness, and nerve pain. The organ pedals became a very real challenge and there was NO WAY he would play the organ without the pedals. Eventually he asked to be released from this assignment. He had set a level of expectation for himself and it was just too hard not being able to reach that any more.

However, the leadership of his ward (congregation) wouldn't do it. They wanted him to play for as long as it was physically possible--a true tribute to my father.

My dad humbly acquiesced and began choosing songs that had a simpler pedal part. The last three or four Sundays in which he played Dad needed help getting in and out of the recessed floor where the organ stood. Yet, he was not deterred.

I don't know which hymns were sung on his final Sunday, but I do know what he played for the postlude. I know because a handful of friends sat and listened. They must have known it was his last time playing the beloved organ. He must have known. As he quietly played "God Be with You til We Meet Again," tears flowed freely. They knew. He knew. He was saying goodbye.

I wasn't there. I was 2100 miles away, but I can see it clearly.

Realistically, listening to the organ postlude is not always possible. The closing of an LDS Sacrament Meeting is a time to meet and greet neighbors and friends. It is a time to "scoot on out" to set up for Sunday School or Primary.

But. . . if you have a moment some Sabbath Day. . . listen. Just listen. There may be a story just waiting to be heard.


If you aren't familiar with this farewell hymn, enjoy the video below:


Suzanne said...

What a beautiful post and tribute to your father. I don't often listen to the postlude music -- I teach Gospel Doctrine and have to hurry out of the chapel to get to my class. However, I do come early so I can sit in the chapel and listen quietly to the prelude music. It helps set the tone for my day. I'm not musically inclined, but I appreciate (so much) people that are. Thank you for starting my day off with this beautiful "thanksgiving" post. I appreciate it.

Fine Art by Jennifer said...

That's beautiful, Julie. Thanks so much. I loved and admired your dad.

Saimi said...

What a wonderful tribute to your father! I love that song. As a congregation after the closing prayer we sing it to a Elder whose leaving on his mission.

It brings tears to my eyes every time.

Shannon said...

What a beautiful post. I love your writing. I've had enough experiences with "God Be With You 'til We Meet Again" that often just saying the title will make me tear up. Thanks for sharing.

Also, I didn't notice a single thing wrong with the closing song on Sunday. Of course, I also didn't notice that you played it again as postlude. I'm going to make a point of listening better, but I can't sit a do so this week as I have to rush off to teach a class. I'll bend my ear that direction as I head down the hall!

Anonymous said...

This post touches my heart ! A wonderful tribute to your father !

landbeck said...

It was always a treat when we would attend the temple and he was there playing the organ in the chapel. We miss everything about him, but thinking about his music makes me miss him keenly.

Lisa said...

I want you to know that I was thoroughly enjoying your beautiful prelude on Sunday, and then cheering for you with each song you played. I felt your pain when I knew you weren't pleased with the closing song. And, I noticed how beautifully you played it for postlude. I assumed it was to prove to yourself that you could do it. You are amazing and I marvel at your ability to play the organ the right way. Don't give up!

And This Is My Joy said...

Julie, that was wonderful... you look just like your dad, especially in the eyes.

Thank you for sharing!

And This Is My Joy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lesa @ music notes said...

This is one of my favorite posts. You have challenged me to try and play the foot pedals when I play next time. I cheat and use the base coupler.

What a nice tribute to your Dad and I'm so happy you are playing the organ. I bet you are doing a great job. Keep it up! I do know how frustrating it can be sometimes when it doesn't go as planned.

Marianne said...

Oh, Julie. What a beautiful post. I cried.

I cried because I can feel your love for your Dad. Your description of his last time at the organ was poignant and perfect.

I cried because I am so proud of you for learning to play the organ. The right way.

I cried because I still use the bass coupler. I want to be a real organist, but I have other things I have to do right now, and I just don't have it in me to pick up one more thing right now.

And I cried because I can see Suzette sitting there, supporting and loving you.

Congratulations on a perfect postlude and a perfect post!!

Sister Babcock said...

thank you. good tears this morning. good memories. you help me want to practice more to help this branch have better music when all they have is me to play the keyboard.

Marla said...

Beautiful!You make your Dad very proud.A great way to tribute him.Blessings,Hugs Marla

Lisa @ Pulsipher Page said...

I love that song and your dad's story made me cry. My dad also has prostate cancer. Right now he's in remission.

Mom to Many said...

Thank you Julie.

You let us into your heart today.


Nichole said...


Julie said...

Your thoughts and comments today meant SO much. Really. Thank you!

Hilary said...

Well, being married to a life-long ward choir director I do love me some good music.

What a lovely tribute to your father.

My dad was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer... {sigh}

Deb said...

You are a natural writer and storyteller. It's fun to read your blog.

What a great thing that you can do something that your dad also did so well and loved.

Lara said...

Julie, this is a beautiful tribute to your father and to the legacy he left you. Thanks for sharing.

And I am terrified of playing the organ...I have not even tried to learn, and if our organist is not in sacrament meeting I just play the piano for our small branch (i'm the only other pianist). Good for you for learning!

Mom to Many said...

By the way... I listened very carefully to the organist when I attended the temple the other day. Thought of you and your Dad. :o)

Have I done any good in the world today?

Anne said...

Thank you for sharing this lovely post. I will make an effort to sit and listen to the postlude.

Sandra said...

Lovely and touching. You have me thinking about my own grandma- the organist in her own ward who is also now losing a battle with cancer. Thank you for sharing. I always feel more human and connected when I know of others experiencing and sharing moments akin to mine.

Joanie said...

Thank you for stopping by my blog. When I read this post about your dad it made me tear up. My mom was the ward pianist (we lived in a Twig... not big enough to be a Branch!) I can still see her hand on the keyboard! and it makes me cry.

Music is such a blessing in our lives. Thanks for sharing this experience with your dad.

Wendy Walker Cushing said...

I enjoyed this tribute to your dad. Keep up your practicing too. My husband is like your dad and started playing organ for their ward when he was about 10 or 11 yrs. old, majored in organ at BYU and is still playing every week for everyone at the age of 52. They are part of the same breed, these organist lovers. Like your dad, he has a dedicated love for this music.