And while I did hear it in church this morning, it didn't come from the pulpit, or the readings, or the hymns.
The Sundays after Christmas, even if Sunday is Christmas, are extremely low-key in most congregations after the traditional overhyping of the Christmas Eve festivities. Typically, the choir is off, the attendance is low, and there's only one service on the day where usually there are more than that. So it was with us today- and not only was the choir absent, the music directors, who also do the piano/organ-izing every Sunday, were also off. For us, that almost always means Mary Ann.
Eleanor became friends with her over the past few years, from seeing her in Wegmans and then recognizing her behind the keyboard. Both she and her now deceased husband were accomplished sacred music performers in this area; she lost him two summers ago, and we attended his funeral up at a gorgeous Catholic church in Niagara Falls. When she substitutes for us, we always check in with her, and as recently as a few months ago, she was still grieving pretty visibly.
This year, that grief took a last-minute beautiful turn.
The Friday before Christmas, she got a call from a friend, who knows her talents and assists in booking engagements for her. There was a wedding at a church in downtown Buffalo on Christmas morning; could she play at it? Since she'd already told her friend that her only plans for the day were "to sit around in my jammies with my kitty in my lap and cry," her availability wasn't the issue. For her, the only real one was one of logistics- she much prefers pianos to organs in unfamiliar venues, since they're more predictable experiences- and once she heard it was a piano assignment, she agreed to it.
It wasn't a matter of emergency or forgetfulness, but of serendipity- the marrying couple, older, one in the military, just realized that their families would all be in town for the holiday anyway, so why not now? And so they made it now- and with the amazing ability to have an expert musician at the keys to ring in their Christmas and wedding day.
A quarter century ago, we had our own last-minute experience of that kind. The day before our wedding, our minister called to ask if we'd mind if an RIT student did a photo shoot of our wedding for a class project. It was a bit unexpected but we were okay with it as long as the professional fotog was (and he was). She turned out to get some of the most memorable expressions of our party and guests of that day- including this one of Eleanor and her soon to be late sister-in-law, a photographic moment in time I will treasure forever:
This year's Christmas couple may not remember Mary Ann's name 25 years from now, but they will certainly remember her kindness, and talent, for becoming part of their life in the nicest of ways on the shortest of notice.
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