I played violin for my mom's church on Sunday. It's very beautiful, a simple wooden church with arching rafters and ceiling high windows with a view of this forest of oak and pine tree. It's an anglican church, so the service is always very proper with ritual and silk cloth and little white paper-thin wafers during communion.
I usually play each time I come back, because most people there never get to hear music in person, and mostly because I know it's one thing I do that I can count on making my mother happy. The structure of the church is perfect for acoustics, and I'd attempted to practice so that morning even to me, each note sounded like it was on a wing. It was like the sound was yearning for the pine trees outside, as though it was reaching for the gravestones in the garden.
Afterward, people came to talk to me, some shook my hand, some were crying. They told me how they'd heard the song at a wedding, or how it reminded them of the past.
An old man held my hand and asked me solemnly if I would play at his funeral (His tone was as though he were asking me to get married, or go spend a day picnicking. My response was an awkward laugh / misplaced guffaw - which was probably the wrong reaction.)
One woman said it was her and her husband's favorite. "I'm sorry he couldn't have heard it in person today."
Tactless me: "Oh that's too bad why not? Tell him he should come next time!"
Her: "Oh honey, he's always listening, but... he passed on some years now."
I know I should have felt some kind of happiness or maybe some accomplishment, but mostly I felt like a fraud. I know I used to have talent, but I had mediocre effort - and I was just skating by on some former learned technique and acoustics, nothing extraordinary.
They assumed I was studying music or playing all the time - when in actuality, I didn't feel like admitting I'd quit years ago before I really got anywhere with it. Then they asked about school and what I study, and how I was probably all set to be a lawyer - when in actuality, I was/am horrible at law school, and if I could have, I would have quit that as well. And that I've had a dissertation to write that I've put off for months.
I'm not trying to be a severe self-critic or revel in emo-pity, 'oh the rain how it mirrors my tears' but in those moments I realized that there is so much room for giving and improving the world, doing something wondrous. A simple song like that could create such an echo, such meaning. And I've been living with no effort, like I'm just trying to get by, only a step above quitting. Self-contained and self-involved with no echo.