Essentially Sharon

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Defining the Music

Sometimes music makes you wonder how it should be defined.

Dad on guitar and me on Grandpa’s fiddle at a family reunion during Summer 2011. I was recovering from multiple surgeries, chemo, radiation, and more surgery due to colon cancer. Dad passed away in August 2012, and my cancer returned in October 2012. This picture was taken on a very good and sweet day filled with joy, family, and music.

Is music a gift? A goal? A trust?

Leo C. Cox is written on a faded tag inside my fiddle. He was the the man who owned the instrument, who took it apart, fixed it, put the white screw pegs on the scroll for easier tuning. He played the fiddle in barn dances with my grandmother and other family in the Southern Tier of New York during the Great Depression. He was my grandfather. I never knew him, but I heard about the music.

Grandpa’s fiddle rested in an old black case in our attic on Spencer Avenue. The instrument was surrounded by other violins, mandolins, banjos and even an old silver saxophone. One fiddle rested in two pieces with a tiger striped back. Another was a copy of a Stradivarius violin that my dad played in elementary school. My father’s music teacher tried to get his dad, my grandpa, to part with the violin. Grandpa declined. Grandpa’s fiddle was the piece in the attic that always captured my imagination. The mother of pearl inlay gleamed silently in the shadows. The fingerboard had grooves worn in it from my grandfather’s fingers flying along the surface. No strings, no bridge. Silent.

One summer I came home from camp and my parents gave me a wonderful gift. My father had spent the week fixing up Grandpa’s fiddle. An early 13th birthday present. I was happy. I communicated most with my father in the cadenced space of music. Dad had chosen to give me this connection to my grandfather. An unexpected treasure. A goal. A trust. For the first time in decades, the fiddle sang (after I took a few lessons – that is another story to tell).

Mom had carefully replaced faded material inside the wooden case with soft red felt while dad replaced the bridge and added new strings. Encouraging music in our home was a team effort.

“My dad claimed he could throw that case across the dance floor and the fiddle would be perfectly safe,” said my father, squinting at the wooden container. Smoke swirled from the cigarette hanging casually out of his mouth. I pictured the grandfather I had only observed in black and white photos tossing the wooden case across a dance floor. If my dad said so, it must be true. I wondered how this theory had been tested. I did not ask.

Dad played bass and guitar in local bands. At home he loved playing hymns and the old songs of his family. He would smile when I picked up the fiddle and laugh when I missed the chorus into Red River Valley. I confused it every time with some other melody. I still do.

My favorite place to play fiddle is in church. Recently we had a hymn sing. I tuned the strings and thought about the hands that had worked on Grandpa’s fiddle over many years. The sound guy attached a mic and noticed that the bridge was slightly bent.

“Your fiddle has a nice tone to it. But you’ll want to fix that bridge sometime soon,” he mentioned.

“I’ll have to figure out how to do that,” I mused. “My dad always fixed what was broken.”

Grandpa’s Fiddle at the October Hymn Sing

Dad has been gone home to heaven over ten years. Music bridged emotional chasms in his life. We gained access into who he was down deep when music flowed between us. Now Dad is with the One who created him, the giver of all good things, the healer of all that is broken. This is the same God who removed the chasm of sin separating us all from a relationship with him. He sent his son, Jesus, to live with us. To make a way for us. Immanuel. God with us. He died to pay the penalty of my sin and yours and he lives today and will return. He gave us a way to gain access to know who he really is, through a relationship with Jesus. To learn more about the good gift of salvation please visit the link at the bottom of this page.

I won’t pretend to understand the mystery and joy that is God-honoring music. I do hope the song of my life is pleasing to the Creator. A gift back to the Giver of all good things. A goal to ponder, a trust to keep, and eventually, a legacy to pass on to another.

I guess that’s how I would define the music.

What (or who) defines the music of your life?

Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.

Psalm 95:1-2

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