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My mother’s violin

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Friday, August 11, 2017

I would like to share something with you that is a bit different from my usual hikes. But those of you who have read my blogs for a while know that from time to time, I share something a bit more personal...

My mother, who died last March after several years of a very sad fight against Alzheimer’s, played the violin. She was a very good amateur violinist. As I played the piano, we sometimes played together. I think it will take me a while to be able to listen again to some of the pieces we played together. Time will heal, I know, and one day I will listen to them with delight.

(Johan Sebastian Bach’s Violin Concerto in A minor which we played together when I was about 17... Here is a recording of this piece with a whole orchestra if you want to listen to it:

Late spring, after my father gave me my mother’s violin, I had it estimated. I knew it was a very good instrument, but I wanted to know for sure what a professional would say. It was indeed a very good instrument, from the last part of the 19th century. When I came back from the appointment with the violin maker, I cried all the way back in the car. It had been hard to open the case, to let someone inspect this instrument my mother loved so much. And I just couldn’t leave the violin with him, I couldn’t let him sell it. I knew this wasn’t what I wanted. Money wasn’t the most important. Yet it was hard to know for sure what my mother would have wanted, so I decided to listen to my own heart.

(My mother with her violin playing at church in the late 1980s)

I spoke with my father who agreed for me to do what I felt: I wanted to give the violin to a professional violinist in a developing country, who loved music and would never have been able to afford such a violin. (I was also dreaming that this person would be a good, kind person, but I felt ridiculous thinking that way... how would I ever know?!) - As I work mainly with Africa and the Middle-East (in an international NGO), I started looking in that direction (contacting colleagues, friends working in that area...), especially as my mother grew up in North Africa. But it didn’t lead to anything.

Then I remembered from my trip to Armenia last October...

... that my colleague Arshavir’s daughter, Mariam, is learning the violin at an excellent level. I thought he might have an idea, know of someone who would be a good new owner for the violin. I wrote to him and waited. It took him several days to answer, and then, with his usual sensitivity and finesse, he wrote back explaining that his daughter had just been offered a job as a violinist in the orchestra in Yerevan and that she didn’t actually own a violin... So he would be very grateful if my mother’s violin could go to her.

I cried. I couldn’t believe how amazingly well this was turning. If you believe in God, you will believe, like my mother would have, that God prepared everything.

(Crosses by the roadside in Armenia)

Yesterday morning I took the violin to a close friend of Arshavir who lives near Paris, who will arrange for the violin to be taken to Armenia. I wrote a little note to Mariam that I put with the violin - it took me a while to find the right words! I so hope that this violin will truly be a blessing for her, for her career, for her whole life. What I know for sure, as I know her father and have been told by colleagues and friends, is that she is a very special young woman. And that she will love that violin at least as much as my mother did!

(Yerevan’s Opera, where I had the privilege to attend an outstanding concert last October...)

I wanted to share this story with you as I make my way through this grieving journey... with all its ups and downs. I had a very heavy heart yesterday morning, and it was really hard for part of the day. But last night I felt at peace that my mother’s violin will be in good hands, and, most importantly for me, will continue to live through Mariam’s gifted hands.

Thank you for reading! And thank you for all your lovely words again in my last blog, always very much appreciated even if I don’t write to every one of you! Let me leave you with this beautiful view of the mountains in Northern Armenia, where I took one of my most beautiful walks last year...

P.S. Update October 2017: The violin safely reached its new owner! Here is a picture of Mariam playing it... I am happy. :)

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