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  • Writer's pictureGiacomino Nicolazzo

Those Left Behind...


1 April 2021

“I can’t remember the last time I heard music in this house,” she thought to herself.

Someone who had come to the house to pay their respects to him after he'd died had laid a single red rose across the keys. Now it lay wilted and shriveled. She was surprised her mother had not picked it up or thrown it away.

She also could not help but notice the thin layer of dust that covered the black lacquer. The whole scene was so incredibly sad.

Without thinking about it, she pulled the bench out far enough to sit down. Closing her eyes for a few moments, saying a silent prayer she’d learned as a child, she then began to play one of the songs he’d taught her when she was a twenty-year old student at the university in Bologna.

She’d not played it in quite some time and was pleasantly surprised with how easily it all came back to her. It was a song written by Billy Joel, one of her father’s favorites.

It was filled with the saddest, most poignant of words. She began to play, lingering on the intro, just as he’d taught her to do. In between the verses she allowed herself to drift back in time…back to when her heart ached and her self-confidence was so battered and bruised…

In every heart there is a room

A sanctuary safe and strong

To heal the wounds from lovers past

Until a new one comes along

She knew it was perhaps nothing but her imagination, but she sensed her father’s spirit sitting beside her on the piano bench that day, filling her with an emptiness that made her panic.

He’d once told her, “The mightiest power death commands is not so much that it takes away the people we love. No…there is something far more nefarious to death. The real power of death is that it can make the people who are left behind want to stop living.”

I spoke to you in cautious tones

You answered me with no pretense

And still I feel I said too much

My silence is my self defense

She had been a painfully shy little girl, abandoned by her natural parents and living in an orphanage. She was just three years old when he found her and brought her home to live with him and the wonderful woman who would become her mother.

Over the next twenty-seven years, she experienced a lifetime of love and adoration…learning lessons enough to last her ten lifetimes. She was thirty when he died and the last year had been the worst and the most difficult of her entire life.

And every time I’ve held a rose

It seems I’ve only felt the thorns

And so it goes, and so it goes

And so will you soon I suppose

“Whoever said that losing a parent gets easier with time,” she told a friend in America one day after she’d returned from his funeral, “simply had no idea what they were talking about...they were badly mistaken. Speaking from my own experience, the pain of the loss and the emptiness it creates never eases. You never get over it. You simply cannot forget all those moments you’ve shared and the effect they’ve had on your life.”

But if my silence made you leave

Then that would be my worst mistake

So I will share this room with you

And you can have this heart to break

“No,” she says. “Time does not ease the pain. Instead, it is the spaces between the times you think about them and miss them that grow longer.

And when you do remember that one special moment or that most important lesson they taught you or something as simple as the way they made you feel…well, the pain rushes back in like a flood. It returns with a vengeance and it stabs you right in the heart again.”

And this is why my eyes are closed

It’s just as well for all I’ve seen

And so it goes, and so it goes

And you’re the only one who knows

“And then of course there is the guilt. Guilt because life goes on and takes you away from what is important and the things that matter. Guilt because it has been too long since you last missed them.”

It was the guilt that finally brought her home again. The distance and the haunting memories got the best of her. She would lie in bed at night, in that tiny, lonely apartment in America, remembering her father…reliving what life was like growing up when he was alive.

So I would choose to be with you

That’s if the choice were mine to make

But you can make decisions too

And you can have this heart to break

Her mother came into the room, quietly and without her knowing. She stood behind her and listened for a while, recognizing the melody as one her husband played quite often. She sat down on the bench beside her daughter and together they sang the last verse…

And so it goes, and so it goes

And you’re the only one who knows

“He taught me this song when Lorenzo broke my heart,” she said to her mother. “Do you remember?”

“Like it was yesterday,” her mother answered. “It seemed to make everything better when he would play it.”

“That is why he taught it to me, isn’t it?” she asked, taking her fingers off the keyboard “That is what he always did. He made things better. He knew that man was going to break my heart, didn’t he Mamma?”

“Yes,” her mother answered, nodding her head and smiling. “Your father knew he would hurt you. It is the first thing he told me on the night you brought him here for dinner. Your father knew these kinds of things.”

“But he never said a word to me,” she answered. “If he knew this, why he did not say anything at all to me? Why didn’t he save me from all that pain?”

“Would you have listened to him?” is all her mother asked.

“I don’t think I will ever find a man like Papà,” she said. “I will never find a love like the two of you had. I don’t even look anymore. Yours was a perfect love…from the very start. Such a thing doesn’t exist in these days…not anymore, at least not for me. But tell me something Mamma…did you ever have any moments of doubt about him?”

“Not about him,” she answered. “I always knew he was the perfect man for me. But I almost did not marry him. You see, I had doubts about myself.”

She turned slightly on the piano bench, enough to see her mother’s face. She’d never heard this story before...

“I knew that he loved me very much…powerfully!” her mother continued. “He covered me with a devotion that was beyond my understanding. He showed me the true beauty of this world and the beauty that was within myself. By seeing the best in me, he empowered me. By believing in me, he transformed me. By loving me, he saved my life.

Now I can see that it was actually a blessing for me to have been his wife, to have been loved so perfectly…so unconditionally, without any demands.

But as we all do, he grew old. And as he did, he began to float away from me. He tried to stay…he really did. But God had different plans for him. But you must know one thing…you must believe it with all your heart. His love and his spirit remain standing eternally by both our sides. He is not gone…don’t ever, not even for one moment, think he is gone.”

“Then what was it Mamma?” she asked. “What could have kept you from marrying him?”

“Your grandmother,” she answered. “She did a lot of damage to me sweetheart. More than you know. I have scars on my heart and on my soul that have taken a long time to heal…some still have not. They may never.

These are scars that you have never seen. I came to believe that as a person…as a woman, I was useless. I did not think I was good enough for your father. I knew that he needed something and someone more than I was able to give him…much more.

And he had been married before. It ended badly for him. He cost him his children and very big part of his heart. I was surprised that he still believed in marriage after what he had been through. I feared I would fail him…like the mother of his children did. And I would not have been able to live with myself had I done that.”

“Did he know what you were going through?” she asked.

“No. I don’t believe he ever did,” her mother answered. “I did a pretty good job of hiding it. If he did know, he never let on.”

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Apr 01, 2021

Thank you Giacomino! Memory and music, sublimely entwined with life's harshest reality. This would bury me if there was no Easter for my body and soul. He is Risen!

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