Friday, April 29, 2016

Year 6: Week 32 - The Dedication-Part 1

For the longest time, it was simply just a task on to do list.

An alumnus of my school passed away and his friends made a collection of his money in his honor to give a piano to my school. His family also contributed to this fund. I shopped around for a piano that fit our needs and found a great instrument. I worked with the store, our alumni relations’ office, and made the purchase happen. We got the piano and it’s been great to have this new instrument in the classroom.

Off the to do list, done.

In the past couple months, emails periodically would pop up about scheduling a dedication. Finally I got an invite a couple weeks ago.  We were going to move the piano into the library have some refreshments. I offered to say something on behalf of the music department and how this new piano would benefit the students and the person organizing the invent was excited that I would come speak.

The day of the dedication was a pretty normal day at school. My plate was pretty full so I didn’t think that much about the dedication and my speech. I stayed at school and worked through the afternoon into the evening. Between tasks, I jotted down some notes about the piano and it’s musical benefit to the students. I read through my speech, practiced it once out loud, stuffed it in my pocket and went back to work.

When I walked into the library, I immediately felt a feeling of warmth. People were greeting each other with hugs, smiling with a feeling of joy that only comes from being surrounded by people that make you feel like you are at home.

One of the alumni came up to me, gave me a hug, and thanked me for being there. She walked me over to the father of the honored alumni. He reached his hand out to me and looked into my eyes with a gratitude that felt humbling.

The father told me about his son. He told stories about how much his son loved music. The amazing things his son did. Regrets he had about his son and how special this school was to his son and his family. At the edges of his warm words there was sorrow and I couldn’t help but think about the incomprehensible pain of loosing my own son as he spoke.

The dedication started with an introduction and welcome. Then the father spoke and three of his friends also spoke and performed some of the music the honored alumnus had composed. I wasn’t sure where I was in the order of the event, but I expected to be somewhere in the middle. I was surprised when I was called up to close the dedication.

As I walked up to the center of the gathering, I felt the piece of paper I had written my speech on in my pocket. Instead of pulling it out of my pocket, I left it in there and took my hand out carefully buttoned my suit jacket as I stood in front of the crowd.

I wasn’t sure what to say, but I knew that my planned speech was insufficient. I figured I could start with talking about the piano itself as I had planned and hopefully I would figure out what else I needed to say afterwards.

I stepped away from the piano when I was done talking about it, and for a moment it was silent. I looked across the crowd, saw this group of alumni and over on my right was the father I had spoken to earlier looking at me and in that moment I knew what I needed to say.

I closed my eyes, and I pictured my son smiling, held tight onto the warmth his smile brought to my heart and then I opened my eyes and spoke.

I talked about how our students are never alone because thousands of alumni care for them and their education. The names of alumni on our walls are reminders to our students that they are surround with care that comes from people they have never met.

I spoke about how this piano will create music that will surround students and in each note that they hear, they will know the spirit of this alumni who may have left us in one way, but through this musical gift will always be present in our community and our students’ lives. I closed my speech sharing how excited I was to share the spirit of this alumnus with my students and how grateful I was on behalf of all of our students for their generosity and this powerful reminder of what it means to be a community.

After I was done, the father graciously thanked me for my words and I thanked him again for this great gift. As I shook his hand and looked into his eyes, I felt a wave of emotion slowly building. I said goodbye to a couple more people and headed to my car.

I started my car and texted Diana that I was on my way home. She replied that Ollie missed me. Then it hit me and I couldn’t ignore the depth of what I had just experienced as a father and a human being.

All I wanted to do in that moment was hug my son.

As my car flew down the expressway in the night, tears started welling up in my eyes. . .

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