Near 500 words: Grief

Helena loved her accordion. It had been a life saver when her husband died after months of suffering with cancer. During his illness, she picked it up and played for him often. Sometimes when he had the strength, he danced to her music. That accordion was the only constant thing in her life and she kept it close at all times. Even taking it to work and sitting it by her desk.

Helena loved going through art books. One day she came upon a portrait of George Washington and his family. There was Martha and her granddaugher and her grandson with a slave off in the corner to do their bidding. She studied the faces, then the background, then how they were positioned.

It was interesting that they had a map unrolled on the table. The granddaughter held the map in place on the table while Martha pointed to some point on the map with a ruler. The grandson stood just behind the President, looking over his shoulder with one hand on a globe. As Martha and the girl discussed places on the map, George looked off into the distance. His face had one of those “what might have been” looks.

Helena began to hum a tune. She picked up her accordion and made the instrument sound like her hum. Over the next few days, the hum did not disappear from her head. It seemed more and more insistent that she finish the piece she had started.

It was her first composition and it took two years. Day after day she worked on it. Never having composed before, she had to learn how to build a tune into a piece of music. Every night she came home from work, ate a quick supper, then sat down with the print of the painting, a large notebook and her accordion.

The composition was called “Longing”. It was just music and no words and it was sixty minutes long. It paralleled her husband’s life with George Washington. With its music, she told the story of how Washington had wanted to go to sea when he was a boy and how her husband had wanted to be an artist. Both chose different lives than their childhood dreams. Lives that they found satisfying but still the two men were left with those longings.

One Saturday night, she called together her closest friends. After some wine and cheese, they sat back to listen to her music. She said, “This is for Ben.” Then she began to play. For the next hour, not one of them moved. The music froze them to their seats. At the end, they each had tears in their eyes. They too had remembered their childhood dreams and experienced once again that longing for what might have been.

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