Let me tell you a story. My name is Dorothy and once I was a music teacher at a local school. One sunny afternoon a young lad came in looking for singing classes, well… that’s kind of my expertise. I greeted and invited him to follow me to one of our studying rooms so we could talk more and maybe even have a free class so he could have a taste of how we did things there. No strings attached.
One of the first things we do in our intake classes is to understand why people want to sing, what motivates them to be there, what kind of music drives them, etc. His answer was somewhat cute and unusual:
— I want to gift my wife a song.
He then followed by saying he did not have much time available and whether it would be possible to focus on only one song “Unchained Melody” by The Righteous Brothers. He did not want to become a professional, he just wanted to sing it to his wife and not make her ears bleed. He was all shy and insecure but at the same time, he showed a determination that we rarely see around.
Although the request was indeed unusual it was nothing I have never done before, helping someone present a unique song in a school presentation, marriage, party, etc:
— Yeah, sure! We can do that. But this is a technically challenging song so I hope you are up for it.
— Sure, I will do my best.
We went through the subscription, pricing details, and schedule our first lesson for the following night. He really didn’t want to waste time. During the class he was always focused and hard worker, practicing more than any of my other students and accepting nothing short of perfection. Although he was not the most talented student I had, his performance was getting better and better with each class. It goes without saying that I was feeling proud of it.
Two months passed, he had already got all fundamentals and we were trying to expand his voice range. The music he wanted to sing had a challenging dynamic and the climax section required a high pitch which he was not quite ready for, and yet his determination never faltered. Every mistake seemed only to push him forward.
I feel a little bit unprofessional to say this, but I think it does not matter too much right now so I’ll just say it. At that moment I was not only his teacher but also his fan. Not because he was a good singer, he was still just an OK one, but his attitude made me cheer for his success. His purposefulness was contagious. Other teachers were also rooting for him and more often than not came to watch his lessons (which made me jealous I got to admit).
Five months of classes were completed, let’s say that he was almost ready to sing the song for his wife. We were just polishing some notes here and there, getting the rhythm and especially the breathing right since that would enable him to sing more softly when the song required it and keep his voice and throat muscles rested enough to explode at the end of the song to win all hearts. A couple more weeks and he would be fit for the performance.
He was also less shy and comfortable singing, everyone noted that. I asked him if he had a date in mind:
— As soon as possible, I hope. I don’t have much time to wait so I was even thinking next week if you give me your approval.
— We could maybe have one additional class this week and I can send you some extra homework in the meantime. What do you think? You are still not consistent with the falsettos, although they sound incredible for someone who only studied for five months.
— I am glad to hear that and I like your plan, let’s do it!
I was so excited for our last lesson before the big day! I waited for him. The time for the class arrived but he didn’t. Well, he was never late but there is always a first time for everything, right? Five… ten… then fifteen minutes had passed and no sign of his presence at the school. I asked our secretary to call him to check if he was on his way or if he’d maybe forgot our new arrangements. He didn’t pick up the phone. I went home that day so worried, I hoped he was alright.
Three days later he returned our call and I came running when I heard our secretary say his name.
— I am sorry Ms. Dorothy for not calling you before, but my wife passed away on the morning of the day of our lesson. I… I… I just couldn’t find strength to do anything else.
It was as if I had lost a distant someone I knew and loved. I never even knew the name of his wife, he never talked about his personal affairs during his time at the school and I didn’t feel close enough to bring it up. Anyway, I was rendered speechless by shock.
He went on saying that for the past two years she was fighting cancer. She loved the movie Ghost and because of that, her favorite music was “Unchained Melody” by The Righteous Brothers. He wanted to sing it for her as a gift, her birthday was still months away but he felt he did not have much time to wait, and now he was one week short for it.
— … So, her funeral will be held this weekend at St. Barbara’s Church. So, I am also calling to say that I will not need any more lessons. I hope you understand.
My head was spinning fast, all I could say was:
— I am so sorry. I am…
I took the rest of the week off. I can’t explain why I felt so sad by the news of a person I didn’t even meet passing away. Grieving for a gift that I was neither the giver or the receiver. Somethings don’t need explanations, they just… are.
On the day of her funeral, I woke up and decided that I had to attend it. How could I not? For the past five months, I dreamed and worked with her husband and the gift for his wife. A gift that will now be forever undelivered.
I arrived at the church and since I was neither friend nor family I decided to stay at the back seats. The church was full so it was easy to find a spot I could just stay unnoticed. I didn’t want to bother this family in pain, I just wanted to say goodbye to the lovely person I never met and tell her how I was proud of her husband. Tell her… tell her thank you for the past five months.
Everybody was sitting down when the priest started talking. He said a few words about death and the plans of God. He then invited her husband for his eulogy.
Her husband. My brilliant student. He came forward and said:
— How can we ever continue? How can we ever endure? How can life be after losing you? I can’t see a future without you my darling, I just can’t. But I promised you I was going to try. We’d spoken and planned for this day hoping it will never arrive, praying it would forever be in the future, deceiving ourselves so we could smile together, hiding the weight on our hearts and weeping desperately while alone in the dark. We never wanted our tears to be seen but today I just want the whole world to cry with me. Because you are gone and I don’t know what to do. You never taught me how to live without you.
I couldn’t help but cry. So I cried the death of a friend, a friend I wish I had the opportunity to know. I was angry at God for stealing her from me as well. He continued:
— We used to watch Ghost together, to remember how we met. Such a cheesy movie that represented so much for us. Will you come to visit me after death as well, my darling? Will you? Please, I already miss you so much.
He then looked at her open casket:
You know, I had a gift planned for you. I am sorry I didn’t finish it in time, but maybe… maybe you are still here around us for a few minutes?
He then started to sing the song we had practiced together for the last five months together. Just him. Eyes closed. A capella. The late gift for his wife. Their last dance together.
Oh, my love, my darling I’ve hungered for your touch A long, lonely time Time goes by so slowly And time can do so much Are you still mine? I need your love I need your love God speed your love to me Lonely rivers flow To the sea, to the sea To the open arms of the sea Lonely rivers sigh “Wait for me, wait for me” I’ll be coming home, wait for me Lonely mountains gaze At the stars, at the stars Waiting for the dawn of the day All alone I gaze At the stars, at the stars Dreaming of my love far away Oh, my love, my darling I’ve hungered, for your touch A long, lonely time Time goes by so slowly And time can do so much Are you still mine? I need your love
— … I need your love.
His voice then faltered in sorrow and down came his knees on the floor. After a few moments, he slowly got up and walked to his sleeping wife, kissed her dearly on the forehead and softly said:
— Goodbye, my darling.