11 October 2013

Photo Friday #120: piano life lessons

Growing up, I was fortunate to live within an hour’s drive of my much-adored grandparents. Nevertheless, I “adopted” a few grandmother-like figures in my hometown: our back-door neighbor, and my piano teacher Mrs. Rella. Both women are incredibly special to me, but you gotta admit that when it comes to sheer admiration for patience-dealing-with-a-little-kid? The piano teacher wins, for sure.

Because Mrs. Rella was so calm and capable dealing with what I can only describe as the “spirited child” that I was, she completely endeared herself to me. So even when I was grumpy about having to attend piano lessons or having to practice piano... I never had a harsh word or feeling toward Mrs. Rella. There were many times when the only reason I made any effort with my piano studies was simply so that I wouldn’t disappoint her.

I took piano lessons from Mrs. Rella from age five to eighteen, and at the end, I was her ONLY piano student. She’d retired, officially... except for me. Because apparently she loved teaching me as much as I loved learning from her.

In college, I took over Mrs. Rella’s job as service pianist for our church. Our church. When I was eight years old, Mrs. Rella invited me to play a piano piece during the service at the local Presbyterian church, where she was staff pianist. I hadn’t really attended church regularly before, but once Mrs. Rella invited me to church... I never stopped going. And I still haven’t. I think she just meant to give me a one-off performance opportunity, but instead, she gave me the start of a faith journey that I treasure more than most anything I have.

Clearly, Mrs. Rella was so much more than “just” my piano teacher.

I could go on and on about what a special person Mrs. Rella was. She wrote poetry and composed musical arrangements of the Psalms. She had deep Christian faith while loving her Jewish husband completely. She was generous with her time and money, and she had kind words for everybody, even people who probably didn’t deserve them. She spent her life inviting young children into her home to teach them music, which in itself should make her a saint.

And I could tell you all about how her family became my family. How I worked as a PA for her and her husband during college, transcribing their compositions and making them coffee. How I giggled at her husband’s awful, silly jokes, even the tenth time he told them. How I rode along with her when she drove to visit her daughter so she wouldn’t have to make the trip alone. How her son became my youth group leader, but really more like my twenty-years-older brother. How she traveled all the way to Nashville for my wedding three years ago.

That’s Mrs. Rella on the left. The other woman is her best friend – my other surrogate grandmother.

Mrs. Rella passed away last week, and aside from a few tears during Mass, I can honestly say that I have never been so at peace with someone I love leaving this world. She made the most of her time here and left an incredible legacy in the form of her students, her compositions, and her family. And I have no doubt that she’s in a better place now, because I have always known that if anyone is making it to Heaven, it’s Mrs. Rella.

A beautiful woman, a beautiful life, a beautiful soul. It’s hard to miss someone carried so closely in my heart.


Mary Beth said...

I had not heard about Mrs. Rella's passing. This post was beautiful and I know she would have loved it :)

Tina said...

Thank you, Sari.

Janice said...

You're right, it's hard to miss someone you carry in your heart, because they never leave! :) She will be a part of you forever and isn't that a wonderful comfort.

Beautiful tribute to a wonderful person.

Christal said...

what a beautiful tribute.