Click on any photo for the full version! Happy end of year!!
Greetings to friends and family around the world. I write on the day of the winter solstice, and note with sadness that this world seems particularly darker than it did a year ago. I pray for light and truth to again be kindled in the hearts of those who lead, and who alone can set to the tone for this world.
May it be so.
Even with the death of my father in the waning days of 2017, my own 2018 has been significantly brighter than national and international news might allow!
Winter. A solo cabaret act. Loads of teaching and concert-going and the robust time of the year at the office. A quiet winter without any significant travel except for a quick trip to Naples, Florida to see Spencer go on as Prince Chulalongkorn in The King and I.
Spring. Begins with a trip to Moscow to discuss collaborations. Attend a concert in Tchaikowsky Hall. Tourist for full, long day in Moscow. Holy Week in London, with services at St. Paul’s and Westminster Abbey. My former student sings Gerontius at King’s College Cambridge. Wrap up the school year with a sizable graduating class. Pack up and finish work on my father’s estate. A week in NYC, and confirmation of a budding relationship. Solo/ensemble contest brings solid results. Senior recitals with three voice students. Attend the Tony Awards. Celebrated the completion of 10 years at Webster University.
Summer. Begins with a week in Lincoln at a conference. Then to Vienna on the Messing Faculty Award for three weeks of research and curriculum development. Side trips to Stockholm and Florence. Allergies abound in Vienna! Wept copious tears at the sight of Michelangelo’s David. Start the new school year with days of meetings, and a robust new-student class. Yufei visits Saint Louis. Start work with Variety Children’s Choruses as the new conductor. Celebrate my 57th birthday with a day of museum visits in Vienna, and a screening of The Third Man at a kino.
Autumn. Auggie turns 8. Sabbatical begins in mid-October. Accept a gig with Circus Harmony as composer and music director for the big January show. Start traveling immediately. Chicago with Yufei. Toronto and Niagara Falls with my nephew Luke. Washington, D.C. (pandas!!) and NYC with Yufei. Chicago again. And Christmas at home in Lee’s Summit with my sisters. Attend multiple Circus Harmony classes and practices. Conduct a holiday concert with the Variety Children’s Choruses. Attend Joffrey Ballet and Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
Over the course of the year I’ve witnessed powerful live concert performances. Viewed some of the world’s greatest artworks. Learned more about cooking. Kept up the slow renovations on a 100+ year-old home. Enjoyed some stunning meals (Stockholm, Vienna, Chicago, NYC all were gastro-delight locations). Worshipped in grand and beautiful spaces. Composed some decent music. Shot loads and loads of photos (I’m starting to understand light much better). Whipped up homemade plum jam and blood orange marmalade. Taken various architectural tours. Read more books than the year before, and also a big chunk of the Bible. Extended my cufflink-buying spree with a dozen new pairs. Imparted lessons about singing, and about life, with students. Loved on my dog. Caught up with friends in far-flung places. Bought more new eyeglasses. Fallen in love.
Not a bad year indeed.
May 2019 bring us comfort and joy and challenges that we can together address.
One year ago this evening, my father Richard breathed his last. His end was peaceful.
I did not publish this photo a year ago, because it was too personal. But perhaps today is the right time. Pop was in his bed at home, under hospice care. His wife JoAnne spent hours by the side those last few days.
Rest In Peace, Pop.
One year ago this morning, I packed my car with two suits and other clothes for a ten-day stay . . . and drove west via I-70 to my hometown.
The hospice nurse had told me the day before that I probably needed to be home sooner rather than later.
I arrived in early afternoon to find my father awake and responsive enough to know me and say “Hi, Son.” Later that day he sipped a bit of Pepsi and remarked on how good it was.
Those couple of days in bed and awake were restless ones for him. By Saturday he was sleeping soundly, no longer speaking, difficult to rouse.
By Sunday night, he was gone.
One year later, I’m headed to Chicago for a holiday weekend of glorious music and even a visit to the ballet. Life is good. The last year has been full indeed.
But Pop is on my mind today.
This precious note was in my father’s files:
JoAnne Howard had lost her husband just a few months before my mother died. JoAnne sang at my mother’s funeral, as she had at countless funerals before.
The funeral home paid her, of course, but JoAnne returned the money to my father with this note.
Jo’s family had been intertwined with ours from our first days in Lee’s Summit. Her youngest son, Greg, was my best friend growing up.
Flash forward: 18 months after Mom’s death, my father returned to the USA from Argentina on a terminal furlough.
And a few months later this lonely man was courting JoAnne Howard.
They were married — this widow and widower — in May 2000, barely nine months after my father began his final furlough, and just a week after he officially retired as a missionary.
That marriage lasted more than 17 years until his death last December.
Not long after my father retired, he came to visit me in Owensboro. This was nineteen years ago this week.
Over the next 18 years until his death, he only spent one other night under my roof, an omission that continues to baffle me. But that’s another story with a therapist!
We visited Louisville on a Saturday: downtown, Fort Knox, Churchill Downs.
I later wrote this card to Grandma Carter, who by then was in a nursing home.
I lived in Owensboro, Kentucky for the 1999-2000 school year. My Grandma Carter was residing at that time in a nursing home in Jefferson City, and my father had just returned from his years as a missionary in Argentina.
This card is from 19 years ago this week.