Some dates on the calendar are more important to us than the others, often marked by birthdays and anniversaries, or events that have changed our lives. For those reasons, we choose to forever commemorate them.
The longer we live, the longer the list of such dates tends to grow. Sometimes we live through an extraordinary day, thinking it only an ordinary one, only to realize its significance long after it has passed. When we reflect on it later in life, we wish that we could have savored it more. Last March 16 happened to be such a date, when my husband Mark's best friend of 44 years, Michael Pisani, came for a visit. Since he often made such pilgrimages to our house, nothing was out of the ordinary. It just happened to be his 65th birthday, so we celebrated with homemade beef bourguignon and a special bottle of 1979 Chateau Latour that my husband had given to him as a birthday present decades before, and which they had always been too busy to drink before now.
Michael, a legend in the music world, accompanied Leonard Bernstein on opera tours, preparing the singers and often conducting the orchestra. He was a book author, a winner of the Deems-Taylor Award, the head of the music department at Vassar College, and most importantly of all, a man who was fun to be around.
I fondly remember how he played the joyful but fiendishly difficult overture to Mozart's opera, "The Marriage of Figaro," on the accordion for our wedding some 25 years ago. It was a daunting task, to say the least, with thousands of lightning-fast notes normally performed by an entire orchestra in just four minutes, played by one man and one instrument. But Michael was a magician of a musician.
Where there was Michael, there would always be music. After his birthday dinner, Michael sat down at our concert grand piano with Mark. They played and sang, and I enjoyed the music as the sole, lucky audience member with our musical puppy, Banjo.
When Michael's trip came to an end, we casually said "goodbye" and exchanged warm hugs, expecting many more such visits in the future. So it came as a shock some four months later when, on a grey summer afternoon, we received the news that Michael had quietly and suddenly left this world.
We grieved deeply in losing Michael, a great friend, a spiritual brother, and a man of tremendous musical talent. From now on, whenever we miss him, we think about that day last March, an ordinary day now become extraordinary. He is forever marked on our unseen personal calendar.
You can always reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reflections of the East Column
By Qin Sun Stubis