Music speaks to our hearts, regardless of our circumstances in life
It was a full room of eager people who came to this benefit. Everyone was pumped up and ready for great food by an upstart, yet fabulous, new chef. Everyone looked forward to the music and the freshly made pieces of art that were available for purchase as well. All proceeds were earmarked for an organization that truly needs help to continue helping people. These people suffer from physical or mental conditions (or both) and the money is used to provide events that help them socialize and learn and live better, more fulfilled lives. Eric Erdman, my son is a musician, singer/songwriter and he plays lots of benefits when he has the open time in his schedule to help out. Often he donates his time but other times there is money built into a benefit that covers his time, such as this one did.
I watched as everyone came in smiling and excitedly greeting one another. They all looked at the art and the delicious food that was beautifully displayed and ready. We took our seats wherever we could find one. This worked out well as it allowed us to meet people we did not know and enjoy our meal with them. I sat down and there were two families that sat at my table. A man, his wife and young teenage daughter were closest to me. There was another family there that included three adults and one child. One of the adults suffered from cerebral palsy and slurred his words when he spoke but he could still be well understood and was a pleasant young man.
The father of the teenaged girl began to speak to me right away. I had only met him moments earlier as we talked briefly. I cannot even remember his name, but I will forever remember his words and the picture they painted in my mind.
The vision a father has for his precious daughter is one of tea parties with her dolls, helping her learn to ride a pink Barbie tricycle on Christmas morning; watching her jump rope and seeing her run to him as she shouts, “Daddy”. His future would hold so many glorious moments of proms, graduations, and the magical moments of walking her down the aisle and holding his first grandchild.
Yet in this father’s eyes I could see deep sadness, they were the eyes of someone whose dreams had been shattered.
As I sat there that evening with so many thoughts bouncing around in my head; I was jerked back to reality when I realized this man was speaking to me. He said, “They dropped my daughter at birth and caused permanent, significant brain damage.” When I turned and looked at him, it felt like gravity suddenly increased its strength and was pulling me downward with great force. The heaviness that was in his heart continued weighing on me and it was difficult to just sit there.
I glanced over at his daughter, who looked to be about 14, and it hit me with a breathtaking punch as I saw her expressionless face and far away gaze. He said, “We love her and we take care of her but our hearts are weary most days as we think of what could have been, yet will never be.”….As he spoke on about these things my mind drifted to my granddaughter who at the time was almost 16. She has so many things in front of her. Right now she is counting down the days to reach that ever so close 16th birthday when she will get her first car. She has prom to think about, she has classes, games, concerts, and college preparation. She is a happy, spirited teenage girl full of expectation.
What a deep, painful feeling it must be to see your child suffering and unable to care for herself; while at the same time envisioning all of the things that make life wonderful for a young girl, having been robbed from her.
With only a brief conversation, a few worrisome thoughts on this stranger’s mind, spilling out to me; I was shaken to my core. This was painful to hear and more painful to see. As I watched his wife tending to her; a lovely teenage girl who seemed unable to communicate and had no interest in wiping the smeared barbecue sauce from her face. I was deeply touched. As her mom gently wiped her face clean; she was annoyed or upset but never made a sound. The world appeared to be moving in slow motion at that point. My mind assessed what I was seeing and I hurt deeply for this teenaged girl. These parents were not facing a broken leg that would heal, or a temporary set back from which there would be a recovery. They were looking at a lifetime of loss and a watershed of broken dreams.
I owe a debt of gratitude to this stranger who sat at my table that night. He opened my eyes wide to so many ways my world could be different and to how fortunate I am. I feel like the luckiest person on earth as I sit here at my computer and glance up to see pictures of my nearly perfect sons and grandchildren. I am so thankful to have met him and his family. He will never know how his words left me with a grateful heart and my eyes wide open. Good food, art and music had spoken to our hearts and we were one.