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Ruth Kuefler

Living and learning

May 30, 2009 at 2:41 PM

I can hardly process all the emotions going through my heart right now. The past two days have ranged from stress and pain to consolation and hope. I can't remember the last time I cried this much. It's just been one thing after another, and it's almost surreal to see how my music has affected or been affected by it all.


First of all, I haven't practiced in the past two days. Yesterday I had to watch my brother and do errands, and when I got home, there was a lot of stressful arguing going on at home about family issues. It was very upsetting, worrying, and frustrating. I couldn't have practiced if I wanted to. I know some people like to turn to their instrument in times of emotional pain, but my violin was the last thing I wanted to see. In that moment all I wanted was a human embrace. Pieces of wood can't give hugs.


As I was getting ready for bed, it hit me. I remembered that Jerry's funeral was in the morning. His family had asked me to play a duet with Madeleine, his granddaughter and a dear student of mine. I had forgotten about the funeral in the stress of the night, and the remembrance gave me a huge sinking feeling. As I climbed into bed, I just wanted to stay home the next day and be alone, away from the world, away from the pain. 


Thankfully I was so drained that I slept soundly and woke up feeling slightly better in the morning. As I showered and dressed I had to wonder to myself, would I lose it at the funeral? I already felt really down from the previous night, and was worried the Jerry's memorial would just make me sink even further. But I really wanted to be there to support the family and honor Jerry. I was almost surprised how comforting it was to see Madeleine and her family. They were so calm and gracious. Madeleine and I played a duet during the service, which was a beautiful remembrance. It was reverent and hopeful, with prayers, memories, and songs. Though I cried, I was comforted inside because I knew Jerry was looking down and smiling. The pastor said there were two things that Jerry said he wanted to leave us with: 


live life to the fullest, and live every day as if it were your last.


Those thoughts stuck with me as I went to go teach that afternoon. During the lessons and in my breaks I started asking myself, what kind of person do I want to be remembered as? The more I thought about it the more determined I was to be the best possible teacher I could be. Teaching has always been important to me, but my dedication to it has grown steadily. The past few years have shown me that teaching is not just educating people on how to play music. It really can touch lives. Because I taught Madeleine, my life had become connected to hers and to her family's. I was able to be there for them in a time of grief and to provide just a little comfort. One of Jerry's favorite things to do was to spend those Saturday mornings bringing Madeleine to her lessons and taking her out for a treat afterwards. I had been a part of that ritual, and I could see the small but priceless joys that came from it each week. Those precious moments that make life worth living.


I want to be remembered for always having a smile on my face. I want to be the one who always sees the glass not just half full, but overflowing. I want to show patience. I want to spread just a little joy in people's everyday lives. I never want to forget what it means to be a kid.


When I got home today, I really didn't feel like practicing. I was too drained and too upset. I don't get sad like this very often, but when I do, it takes me just a little while to bounce back. But I had to do something. I couldn't just sit or I'd go crazy, especially with so much on my mind. So what did I do? spend the evening making and organizing the little prizes for my students' summer practice program. I realized recently that I've let their practicing habits slide a little so I brainstormed a fun way for them to get back into it over the summer. I have to admit that I have days as a teacher when I'm tired, and struggle to stay patient and animated. But much more often, I am heartwarmed by this incredible blessing in my life.


Never would I have guessed back when I first started giving lessons that I would be learning so much more that I could ever teach.

From Anna Meyer
Posted on May 31, 2009 at 10:51 AM

What a fantasic blog! You must be a wonderful teacher. Your attitude towards teaching is very similar to the attitude of my private teacher.

From Terez Mertes
Posted on May 31, 2009 at 3:58 PM

Aww, hang in there. : (  Be extra good to yourself for a while. Sometimes people forget that's part of the grief/stress equation. 

From Ray Randall
Posted on May 31, 2009 at 4:14 PM

Tough times don't last; tough people, like you, do.

From Pauline Lerner
Posted on June 1, 2009 at 5:15 AM

I'm so sorry that you have had so many painful events recently.  You seem to be coping very well with positive thinking.  I've always loved teaching, partly because of what I learn from my students and partly because it gives me a doorway and invites me to walk in.  The doorway leads to some very deep, personal aspects of my students and their famillies.  The open door also gives me huge opportunities to help people.  I need to help other people.  If I have really affected people's lives, those people are my students.

From Royce Faina
Posted on June 2, 2009 at 3:00 PM

Thank you for your blogg!  You also teach us here at so, so much also!!!  I can't think of one heart here that you have 'not' touched in a good way.  My best wishes to you and the family during this time.


ps: What Ray and Pauline said!

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