The Power of Music

Kristin - Marietta, Georgia
Entered on October 17, 2008
Age Group: Under 18
  • Listen to This I Believe on RadioPublic

  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

I was five the first time I sat on a piano bench. My mom pointed at the keys and said, “Learn this instrument. You will carry it with you the rest of your life.” As a five year-old, her words were worth nothing. I was merely captured by the cacophony of noises that could be made by erratically slamming the keys. The music must have sounded like a nightmare, but I remember my mom’s smiles of encouragement.

I grew up; the piano grew with me. The piano went from a rusty upright to a sparkling baby-grand. Fumbled attempts at “Chopsticks” and “Mary had a Little Lamb” smoothed out into streams of Chopin’s Mazurka and Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsodies.

October came and the air was crisp and smelled like fall. I came home one night to see my mom’s back straight. “Grandma has shingles; the doctors say that she has less than two moths,” She choked. I remember being confused and frustrated, feeling helpless. I walked away to the place where I always felt safe and in control. The piano gleamed as usual, but the luster now seemed grotesque. Grandma loved the piano, but she couldn’t play it anymore. A sick feeling of guilt overcame me.

I sunk down on the bench with a loud creak, gazing at the keys that had always had the answers. Placing my fingers on their smooth surface brought a sense of familiarity, like hugging the same tattered teddy bear you’ve had all your life. The edge of a sheet of music was peaking out from behind a well-worn scale book. I read the title: “I Can Only Imagine.” Suddenly, filled with a sense of duty and purpose at finding Grandma’s favorite song, my fingers began to play. I fumbled along the new notes, but the melody was there, and I could feel Grandma there too.

Three weeks later, I visited Grandma for the last time. The sight of her in a hospital gown was one of the most painful images I’d ever seen. Her body was frail; she couldn’t speak above a whisper. The sparkle in her eyes was gone, and I wanted it back.

The day before we left, I helped her emaciated body into a wheelchair and rolled her to the concert hall. I parked her chair and went to the piano.

I placed my fingers on the keys just like I had done for the past nine years. The music flowed like a rich melody. Every emotion I had was put into that piece. I was pleading for Grandma’s recovery, but I was also saying goodbye. At the piece’s climax, I turned to look at Grandma. Her face was moist, and tears were streaming, but her smile was stronger than I had seen all week. I could taste salt; I was crying too.

Two weeks later Grandma died.

I believe in music. I believe the piano’s power and its ability to change lives. I believe in my music, and it has changed lives.