>кухниst returned from an overnight trip with my sister Susan to the North Carolina mountains. It was our Christmas gift to each other so for two short days we could get away from the stress, cares and worries of our lives. As we drove up we talked about illness and financial distress and missing Mom and Dad. Mom died 8 years ago. Dad died 4 years ago. Then I turned off on the wrong interstate exit and we found ourselves at the gateway to The Cove, a retreat center founded by Billy and Ruth Graham.
We hadn’t planned on visiting there, but got a visitor’s pass and went to the visitor’s center in the chapel. It was a cold December Monday and we were the only visitors. Nevertheless, the cheerful volunteer tour guide showed us around and we marveled at the gorgeous winter sun being admitted to the chapel through the leafless trees on the mountainside. It seemed to set the beautiful polished heart pine floors into glorious flame and the whole chapel seemed to glow.
Our guide took us up front and told us how they’d acquired the grand piano. Then she asked, “Do either of you play the piano?”
Susan said wistfully, “I used to play. I haven’t played in a long time, so I wouldn’t be very good.”
We exchanged an uneasy glance, both remembering how the piano Susan had inherited from our girlhood home had burned up in her house fire four years earlier. I remembered seeing the metal piano strings in the ashes. That was all that had been left of the piano. Susan hadn’t been able to replace it. And I remembered how we’d gather around that old piano and Dad would get out his ancient violin from his high school days and we’d sing Christmas carols together. Dad’s violin had burned up in the fire, too.
The guide went on, “There’s plenty of music in the piano bench. And here’s a hymnal.”
I found myself saying, “Susan, play something for us.”
She sat down in front of the grand piano in the empty chapel and thumbed to the hymnal to “Silent Night.” I sank down into a seat on a front pew as the beautiful strains of “Silent Night” rose from the open sounding board and echoed off the polished floor. Susan swayed gracefully as she played and I felt tears well up in my eyes. It was one of God’s perfect moments.
The vibrations of the piano strings ceased and Susan got up from the piano bench and the guide said how beautiful that had been. The beautiful piano in the empty sanctuary had come to life under Susan’s touch. And we had come to life because of its music.
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