That Delicate Balance, Part Two

She really wanted him to play the piano.
Among the earliest guests to arrive
at the party,
she made her desires known
right away.
And of course, I am not surprised 
she felt that way.
She’s been teaching him piano for 14 years.
He was 4 when he started,
and we were gathered to celebrate
his 18th birthday,
and his graduation from high school.
The graduate with his family.

How many people do you know who stick
with anything for that long? 

“He’s been working on this one all year long,”

she said.
“I want to get him on tape,”
she said. 

But he resisted for quite a while.

As the sun began to set,
about sixty friends and family trickled
in the front door. 

The house looked lovely,

the yard, enchanting.
The chatter was friendly,
filled with laughter and warm reminiscence.
A slide show went round and round,
repeating on the big-screen television set,
featuring a lovely collection
of photos from day one until yesterday.
And it was there,
catching glimpses of the past,
that I felt the first sharpness,
the sudden movement of grief and loss
mixing its way right into the middle of 
celebration and joy. 

Our grandboy as a newborn,

held in the loving arms of his daddy.
His daddy who died almost four years ago. 

So much sadness for so long.

And so much joy and happiness, too.
All of it mixed up together in this journey we call life. 

Our daughter’s new husband,

strong and kind and good –
such a gift to all of us,
a gift we are grateful for,
right down to our toes. 

But another milestone has come and gone.

And Mark was not here to celebrate with us.
That will never change.
And I imagine, we will always feel
that stab of recognition at such times,
that moment of searing sorrow. 

It was only a moment.

And soon, the joyful banter
gained volume in corners, at tables,
in the yard, in the house.

And then, cutting through the conversation,
I heard the strains of Chopin.
Familiar music to my ears,
music I heard in my own home, growing up.
Ballade Number One,*
technically difficult,
achingly beautiful. 

So I gently led my mother into the living room,

to listen as Luke played this glorious piece.
She sat in a chair placed right in front of the piano.
My father’s piano,
the one he played for years and years. 

And I stood behind her, 

my hand on her shoulder. 

And together, we heard a miracle. 

The piano literally sang to us.
Of love and loss,
of hope and discouragement,
of hard work – hours and hours of hard work.
My dad’s,
our own. 

The tears rolled down my cheeks as I

missed my dad,
as I missed Mark,
as I celebrated Luke,
as I thanked God for Karl,
as I thanked God for all of it.

Learning to play Chopin takes practice.

Practice, practice, practice. 

And learning to hold the tensions,

the mysteries of this life –
to hold them together,
to let them resonate with one another,
to acknowledge the pain and loss,
and to celebrate the gift and joy –
sometimes in the very same instant –
this takes practice, too. 

Life is hard.

Life is glorious.
Life is overwhelmingly difficult.
Life is radiantly free.
Life is …

It’s a dance with ever-changing tempo;

it’s a song with shifting harmonies;
it’s a tapestry,
a rich oil painting,
filled with color and with shadow. 

Thankfully, we don’t have to navigate 
the dance floor on our own; 
we don’t have to struggle to sing all the parts. 

We are given the gift of one another. 

And we are given the gift of Presence.

Loving, gracious Presence.
God – Father, Son and Spirit;
Creator-Redeemer-Counselor –
invites us into the ongoing dance of the Trinity,
the intricately, achingly beautiful song of the universe. 

In this life, we cannot yet see the edge of the dance floor,

nor can we hear the resolution of all the chords.
we can know the One who does.  

Thanks be to God.

And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.  And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
Romans 8:27-28, The New Living Translation

*At the bottom of this post you will find a link to Vladimir Horowitz playing this piece. Horowitz was a hero to my dad – a genius on the piano, especially playing Chopin.
This is an older video of a live performance, but you will get a view of the
technical virtuosity needed to play this music. 
I was so moved that I did not think to shift my little Canon camera over to video
to record even a little bit of Luke playing!
Thanks so much, Luke, for those transcendent 10 minutes.

Joining with those same friends with this second part on balance…no buttons this time.
Michelle, Jennifer, Jennifer and Emily. And this time with Laura Boggess, too.

Get a personal letter from Diana twice a month

Sign up for *More Wondering. . . * a monthly personal letter from Diana to you, available only to email subscribers. As thanks, receive a copy of Diana's new ebook,30 Ways of Aging Gracefully.

powered by TinyLetter

To receive blog posts in your inbox, sign up below.


  1. Diana, this is amazingly tender.

    Saturday Rich and I had the great honor of attending the graduation ceremony/service for two young people, siblings, who attend our church. They graduated from a homeschooling academy (so I guess you could say their mom was graduating too!) with a class of 13.

    The ceremony began with a slideshow, a few minutes on each graduate, from infancy up to graduation day. And I watched my husband’s face as all these slideshows went by. Because the only kid’s slideshow he’s had anything to do with played at a funeral.

    I saw the twitch in his cheek, saw the damp in his eyes. And it made me so aware of how all of it–the awesome, the agonizing, and everything in between–is wrapped in a bundle.

    Just like you describe so beautifully here. Life. A bundle.

  2. Again, just filled with emotion as I read this tender, beautiful piece. Even though you didn’t get a video of Luke playing, I felt like I was right there with you — listening to the miracle. 

  3. Ro elliott says

    You told this story so beautifully…I too just had a son graduate. Doesn’t celebration bring all the emotions with it. glad we are neighbors at Jennifer’s today….blessings~

  4. pastordt says

    Thank you, Sheila. And anyone and everyone who’s lost someone dear knows this feeling. It’s just there – and ultimately, I think that is a helpful, healthy, even holy thing.

  5. pastordt says

    Thank you, Jennifer. Thank you.

  6. pastordt says

    Thanks for coming by, Ro. And thanks for these kind words.

  7. I’m so glad you wrote this up. Don’t you feel better now?

    My daughter is a musician (percussion), and one of the parental perks is getting to hear great performances. She’ll be going to a band camp at Baylor in a couple of weeks, and I’m looking forward to hearing the four ensembles perform on the last day.

    I’ll be missing a little AAU basketball for that one 🙂

  8. I agree. 

  9. lindalouise says

    Dearest Diana – by the time I got to the end of this beautiful post the words were swimming before my eyes. I can add nothing to this except my heartfelt agreement to every bit of it.
    You, dear one, must write a book. I’d like an autographed copy please.

  10. Dtrautwein says

    Oh Linda, you are so kind. Sometimes I think I’d like to write a book, but I truly don’t have a clue how to go about it. So I just keep plugging way over here on the blog.

  11. Dtrautwein says

    It did help a bit, thanks. :>)

    We’ve got a 14 year old grandson who is a percussionist – but so far only for a worship band and home-grown video back music. These college level programs for hi-schoolers are terrific – hope she enjoys it.

    And basketball will always be there, right??

  12. How blessed you were to grow up with such beautiful music in your home.  I know there were times aunt ruth would go nuts with all the practicing but all in all I know she must have loved it.  I so totally empathize with where you are with your mom.  Between moms primary dr appts, oncology appts. dental appts, lab tests, bladder issues,(amidst my work days and business trips), I  constantly have to work at my patience and intolerance.  I keep having to remind myself that I too will someday be where mom is.  How would I wish to be treated?  Most of the times I find myself being overcome  rathar than overcoming.  Today she was so out of breath and slowly shuffling her feet.  This is not how I pictured my Mom in her older years.  We just need to hold them and each other up in prayer to our Lord who  graciously  gives his loved ones patience and grace to deal with all the difficultys in  life.
    love you, Pam

  13. I agree with Linda. 

    I haven’t read any of this, just heard about it, but… 

  14. pastordt says

    Yes, sweet cousin, I was blessed – in so many ways. And so were you.

    And I pray for patience, kindness, tolerance every single day. Mom heard the “a” word from the doctor on Monday – Alzheimer’s. And she cannot accept it – and I don’t blame her for that. (One doctor says ‘no,’ this one said, ‘yes’ – and I really, really wish she had not.) Mom is frightened and sad and very, very brave. When she isn’t complaining, worrying, obsessing, confusing reality with things she’s dreamed or imagined, that is. This is tough, tough, tough. And I NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS IMAGINED MY MOTHER LIKE THIS. Never. Maybe that’s part of the problem here. I am thankful for grace, for God’s deep reservoirs of patience and for many, many good memories which help me make it through the toughest phone conversations or personal interactions.

  15. pastordt says


  16. I held my breath reading these words, peeking into your special day. Immediately I knew it was a holy moment, then and in the retelling. 

    Love and loss mixed together and God, there all along, holding us in the midst.  Thank you for this treasure, friend. For the treasure that you are. 

  17. pastordt says

    Thank you, Cheryl, for stopping by and for leaving these kind words. It was indeed a holy moment – and you’re right, writing about it last night felt holy, too. Every moment we draw breath is a gift, isn’t it? But some of those moments – oh my, some of those moments…yes, they’re wrapped in angels’ wings somehow. Thanks for reminding me of that truth.

  18. Emily Wierenga says

    oh, my dear friend. this is a piece of art, this post. i felt your sadness, your awe, your joy, your grieving… and i heard him playing. this writing is a masterpiece, and a beautiful tribute to mark, who was listening from heaven as his dear son played. bless you.

  19. pastordt says

    Thanks so much, sweet Emily. I surely do hope Mark could hear that – it would have made him happy. Actually, I’m pretty sure he did/does, though I don’t understand how that works at all. I so appreciate your taking the time to come by here and leave such kind words – I know how pressed and full your life is just now!

  20. That’s it. I’m totally puddled here. This is holy. Sacred. And He breathes through your words. 

  21. Patricia Spreng says

    All of it, like every note… all of it grace… composed by the Master into a resounding, glorious life.  Love you Diana.  Such beautiful sharing… this is a gift.

  22. pastordt says

    Thank you, Pat. And you’re welcome. And love right back to you, friend.

  23. Tara_pohlkottepress says

    the mysteries of life, wrapped up in one post. beautiful. heartbreaking. redemptive. strong. pure.  just lovely.

  24. pastordt says

    Thanks so much, Tara – both for stopping by and for leaving such lovely words.

  25. This is so beautiful. Romans 8:28 is a verse that sits close to my heart always. 

  26. pastordt says

    Thanks, Danelle. It’s a favorite verse of mine, too.

  27. This is such a touching piece, Diana. Oh, how they change us…those that come…and go. What a beautiful family. What a beautiful boy. And the music? Wow. Celebrating this beauty with you, my friend.

  28. pastordt says

    Thank you, Laura. And yes – they change us; we all change each other. Part of that dance of life, I think.

  29. Diana, I missed this post earlier, but as I read it and then listened to the exquisite Ballade tonight, I reacted to the poignancy… words and music all blended, melding with, and so evocative of memories that I don’t want to visit right now. I’ll just say thank you for sharing this and your intense emotions.

  30. pastordt says

    Carol – I am sorry this surfaced things you’re not ready for just now. And I know that feeling. In fact, I didn’t much want to be feeling what I was feeling that Saturday evening. But it was important for me to acknowledge the power of it all – and the co-existence of seemingly opposite emotions. That was the point, for me at least: we are people who feel things deeply and sometimes those very different feelings come all at once…and that’s okay. In fact, it is rich and powerful and in many ways, tells us more fully who we are, as creatures who carry the very image of God within us. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  31. I saw your link to this post over in the comments of Deeper Story today, and I’m reading this with tears streaming down my face. Holding this tension, drinking the cup of joy and sorrow… however you want to say it, is something I’ve been circling around and relearning for years, in that gracious way God often leads us cyclically back to the heart of things, and this, tonight, was pure grace for me. Thank you, Diana.

  32. Thank you, Annie, for clicking through and reading. I’m glad you found it helpful with this hard business of living in the balance between the joys and the sorrows of life – I believe it’s a lifelong lesson-learning process. Somehow writing it down that particular weekend, which was filled with such poignancy for me, helped me sift it all through a bit. I imagine I’ll have to do more sifting before this journey is over.