Bachelor, and loner, Simon Schwartz, (whose birthday is today, July 10th!) had been retired for only a few weeks when he decided to take up the piano again. He had been forced as a child to take lessons, but eventually was allowed to quit. Along with many of the rest of us, he had always regretted having been allowed to do so.
It had been 55 years, but with time on his “hands”; month by month, and year by year he became more proficient, such that he began to record some of his “performances” on his iPad. As he continued to improve, he re-recorded some pieces again to get them to as high a standard as he was capable.
When the pandemic came early in 2020, and seemingly took aim at his generation, Simon’s thoughts quite naturally turned to his own mortality. He couldn’t help but reflect on deaths he had witnessed in his life. He remembered playing a tape of classical music for his mom as she lay dying of pancreatic cancer. She had loved classical music, as did he. Though she hadn’t seemed very grateful at the time, he imagined that he might like that kind of thing for himself.
Simon became determined to produce the music he would hear as he lay dying. How comforting might his own playing be?
Buoyed by the idea, and with a somewhat limited social life, he practiced with renewed vigour with the view to augmenting his own end-of-life experience. He learned, then mastered some of the more obvious classics, such as Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata”, Bach’s “Goldberg Variations: Aria”, and Mozart’s “Requiem”. These would set a suitably somber mood for himself (which he would likely not require) and for those family members in attendance. He learned Prokofiev’s “Golliwog’s Cake Walk“ in order to inject a modicum of levity, and a few Scott Joplin piano rags which might inspire an unpredictable spectrum of emotions.
With much joyful effort over some years, for he was very musical, Simon produced a wonderful collection of piano pieces which he stored somewhere in the Cloud.
As for each and every one of us, Simon’s day finally came. He had dodged the virus that had taken down his President, who had missed out on the surprisingly simple solution to the ravages of COVID-19 which, ironically, was the injection of Chinese Soy Sauce into the rear end.
It was a disconcertingly sunny spring morning that he found himself on his deathbed, surrounded by the members of his family.
Simon was unused to sharing his musical efforts with others. He was surprised how exposed he felt. Wasn’t dying exposure enough, he thought? He found himself listening carefully for imperfections in his playing and, inevitably, hearing them. He questioned why he had utilized so much time trying to create something he hadn’t had the ability to perfect.
But Simon heard a family member saying how astonished she was by what she was hearing; that Simon must have had such an incredible emotional depth, and a sensitivity she had never detected before. How much more, she wondered aloud, did they not know about him? What else had they missed? What else had they lost?
At that point, Simon was unable to give an answer, but he felt peace in knowing he had been able to reveal something of himself by the playing of a piano.