It is after midnight now and we are into the 12th of September. The awful date of September 11th passed without anything catastrophic happening, so far as I know. In fact, the day went out in style at the Myerson Symphony Center, where the new symphonic season opened with a black tie gala… cocktails, dinner, Beethoven conducted by the fabulous Jaap van Zweden, and a rocking after dinner party hosted by his beyond beautiful daughter Anna Sophia. We had a wonderful time… and learned something important.
Since this week has been crazy… very busy, very emotional, very high, very low… it is fitting that tonight had a special meaning. At our table at dinner we were seated next to some former clients of Cole’s, whom I barely knew. Over the course of the evening, as I got to know Marcia better, I became more and more fascinated with her. She has a passion for architecture and for history and listening to her talk about these things far transcended the usual superficial dinner chit chat. Part of her interests includes genealogy and it turns out that she traces her ancestry back to the Mayflower, just as Cole does! So they might be related!!! A funny connection, somewhat oddly arrived at over dinner and desert. A newly discovered cousin perhaps?
On my other side we met a couple who live part of the year on a boat off of British Columbia. THAT was an interesting conversation… and a big temptation to think about leaving it all behind and floating where there are no internet connections. I said my only worry would be the lack of medical services in case of emergency and my dinner companion replied, “Well, I am a retired doctor so that hasn’t been much of a concern.” So if Cole could only get a quick medical degree, maybe we could embark on our next big adventure… ESCAPE.
But aside from the sublime music, the highlight of the evening was after the concert when we reconvened in the dining area for dessert, before joining the wilder crowd (all is relative… after all this WAS a classical music group… DJ Lucy loosened them up!). This rowdier after party was on the other side of the building from the dessert area. We chose to have dessert before getting rowdy ourselves. Over champagne, artisanal cheeses and ice cream sundaes, Cole and I visited with friends and strangers. This is where I met a truly remarkable person.
Tall, elegant, blond, wearing a tailored black evening ensemble with piles of over scaled pearl pendants, this woman radiated a kind of openness that made you want to talk to her. She had a date… she was of a certain age and I am guessing he was at least octogenarian. They had been “dating” for about two years they said. She had a Celtic or Welsh name, something that reminded me of a mythic woman warrior although she was very gentle. She sings… classical music in various choruses. She shared a story about an extraordinary experience she had had recently performing Durufle’s Requiem. As she talked, her eyes sparkled; her whole demeanor was animated and happy. I was enthralled by her sheer joy at life.
As she left the table briefly, her date leaned over to me. “She has terminal cancer; I am her head cheerleader.”
This totally alive, wonderful creature couldn’t be sick!!
I was completely shocked. And powerfully reminded that appearances are only a miasma, a cloud of perceptions and little pictures. This totally alive, beautiful woman gave no hint of the war within her body, of the struggles she must be enduring.
It is really funny in a way…this news shook me profoundly, yet it didn’t make me feel depressed. Instead, I felt somehow elevated, as though I had been blessed to meet her, to have the example of taking the good from life no matter how bleak the situation. I took her picture… I wanted to remember her. And as I reflect on it and her excitement and pleasure at recounting her experience singing that magnificent Requiem, I wondered if the music had a more deeply significant meaning for her than I would ever understand.