This weekend, I was with my Dad in the lovely North Yorkshire countryside where he now lives. A comment I had made earlier in the week about my oldest son wanting to go on holiday to France this year sparked a conversation initiated by my Dad about family holidays in that country in the Eighties.
Dad like many elderly people has a poor short-term memory but is razor-sharp on longer-term recollections. So he reeled off our route, which towns and villages we had visited and little anecdotes. I was struggling to remember some of the things and as I tried to remember one thing, he would be on to the next little story from our holiday when I was around 15 years of age. I served two key purposes on that holiday. Firstly, I spoke French and secondly, I was the map-reader. My husband subscribes to the women can't read maps school of thought and quotes my good navigation skills as one of the reasons he thinks I am wonderful.
So Dad talked and talked and I listened and chipped in from time to time. We found ourselves at a hotel on the River Loire. I remembered eating huge langoustines with mayonnaise with Mum. We are still at the stage in our grief where we tread carefully around each other with strong memories of Mum. Tears come easily and you almost have to make a decision whether you want to go there at any particular moment. I checked on Dad and he seemed fine and talked on.
We both recalled with absolute detail walking late a night up a steep hill in the Loire village to a church. Mum, a devout Catholic, always wanted to visit churches wherever we went. To a teenage me, this generally was an absolute pain but it was how she was. It was very late at night probably approaching midnight and we entered a church that appeared to be in total darkness. Then right at the front, there was light shining brightly but only over the altar area. There was music and there at the front of the church was a violinist playing the most beautiful music I had heard then or have heard to this day. He was in that rapturous state that musicians can access and I suspect he was so into his playing that he never sussed that anyone had entered the church. We stayed for a long time listening but then one of my parents said we should go as we had an early start the next day. I remember not wanting to leave, knowing that once I did I would never have this magical moment again. It was so powerful and has remained with me all my life.
Which leads me to two thoughts on life. The first is that things that appear to be a pain can turn into pure joy. The second and more important one is that whether you know it or not, you might have a huge impact on someone's life in a moment. That nameless violinist gave me a life-long love of violin music. Yet, like many of us, he may have times and perhaps often, when he feels he is unimportant, ordinary, meaningless. I don't think Dad and I mentioned that violinist to each other from the time of that holiday to this weekend 27 years later and yet, it was apparent we had both known that we were in the prescence of something very special all those years ago and have revisited the memory many times alone and with others.
So let the music play on and don't underestimate what a smile, a nod, a word, a quote, your talents, just you can make to other people. I must remember that.