Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Let the Grieving Begin

The mother of my senior young lady student came to visit me yesterday. I was surprised to see her in the studio; she rarely stops in. We exchanged hugs and small talk and then she looked at me with the most curious face. She said, "E. said something last night that I thought I should tell you in person. I could have sent it in an email after she went to bed, but I thought it was something I could only convey to you directly." I held my breath.
Last fall E. began the search for the best college experience. I asked questions, did a lot of listening. She had 16 schools she liked, applied to 7, both public and private, and was accepted at 6. (Sorry, Yale, E. said the interview went great-I think you made a mistake.) She is a delightful student, and brilliant academic who could apply to great schools. She came to her last lesson brimming with news of her acceptance into both St. Olaf and Notre Dame. St. Olaf had offered her the maximum scholarship in the music department, in addition to a healthy academic award. It would be less than state tuition. It was a grand honor and it's a great college. Notre Dame does not offer any scholarship monies, in any field. Their tuition is high, because, well, they can.
E. has been narrowing down her choices, and was excited by the prospect of both schools. She is torn about a music degree, also considering actuary sciences and math. She took a tour of the N.D. campus last year, and came back positively glowing.
The truth of the matter is that she is a Catholic girl; she takes her faith seriously, and she loves the traditions of her church. She said she felt so at home in the cathedral and on the grounds. At her lesson as the leaves fell off the trees, she was in a deep spiritual place, and she sounded so centered, balanced. It was body, mind, and spirit in communion with each other for a moment in time. I rarely get to see that deeply into anyone, let alone E. She is a private person. The moment was magical as she retold what she had experienced there. It was hard for her to find the words; I've been there.
St. Olaf is a Lutheran campus, but 23% of the student body is Catholic, according to documents they gave E. It is close and affordable and an excellent education. It is small and really strong in all the elements that spike her curiosity and display her talents.
Last night, E. was lying on her parent's bed, discussing options for college. It is also a financial matter of over 30k per year. Out of the blue she told her mom, "Mrs. Wolf is one of the only people that gets me. I'm going to really miss her." There was a long pause. Then E.'s mom continued, "She has never said this before. Never, not about me or her friends, or anyone. Chris. I don't know if she'll ever tell you to your face, so I knew I needed to. Thank you, thank you." And she welled up with tears. Of course, so did I.
If only my students knew how much I care about them. Some of them might have a glimmmer; I've never hidden my emotions very well. I started grieving my seniors already in February, when they were playing so well for the competition. I don't grieve them all-I'd be lying if I said I did. But these two are unique, not just in their ability, but in their spirits. How wonderful it is to be able to walk with a child down the long road, into amazing and challenging musical places, over the course of 10 years or more. I've had these two since they were 7 or 8. We've shared middle school, for crying out loud!
I get glimpses into their very being that maybe not even their closest friends or family see. The trials and joys of music study strip away to the most bare and revealing inner elements of a person.
We've shared some incredible moments, particularly musical, and especially poignant. They have worked so hard and come so far. To say I'll miss them is trite, almost flippant. I've had others that left marks on my heart, but here I go again.
I cried and E.'s Mom cried and we thanked each other without words for the shared gift. The spring events whirl by, swirl by. How in the world will I find words at the spring recital to say farewell? Oh, oh, oh, this is gonna hurt.

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