by Joyce DiPastena
When I learned that my book, Loyalty’s Web, was a finalist for a Whitney’s Award, I came very near deciding not to attend the awards gala on March 22nd, where the winners will be announced. Not because it was too far to travel to Utah. I have sister who lives in Salt Lake City who would be thrilled to have me visit her for the duration of the Storymakers Conference and a little beyond. Not because of the unlikelihood of my actually winning (my book is up against the national bestseller, Eclipse, after all). But because I had tickets to a concert that fell on the same day as the awards gala. Not just any concert. This was a Tchaikowsky concert.
It isn’t easy for me to attend classical concerts of any kind, because of the distance I live from classical music venues. The closest venue to where I live is the Mesa Arts Center, a good hour and half’s drive from my little town of Kearny. But when I read last fall that the Mesa Symphony (now the Symphony of the Southwest) was going to perform an all-Tchaikowsky concert on March 22, 2008, I snapped two tickets up and found a woman in my ward willing to drive over with me. I had been looking forward to this concert above all other concerts for literally months and months.
Now, to understand why this concert was so important to me, you have to realize that Tchaikowsky is not just any composer to me. In the first place, he and I share a birthday. (Go look him up, if you want to know the date. ;-) ) The main theme of his piano concerto was turned into a popular song during the Big Band era, and was a theme my father played often on the piano as I was growing up. Though neither he nor I knew who Tchaikowsky was at the time, it was clear early on that both my dad and I were always deeply attracted to the wonderful melody. When I went to college, I took a course in Music History, where I learned the full score to Tchaikowsky wonderful piano concerto. I bought a recording and played it over and over on Sunday mornings as I would prepare for Church. What joy that concerto brought to me through those years!
Then came a long period after graduation where Tchaikowsky and I parted ways for many years. Not out of any conscious decision, just kind of a gradual slipping away and moving on. It was not until a few years ago, when both my parents died, that he came sweeping back into my life in a most unexpected way.
I had spent many years as a live-in caretaker for my parents, and when they passed away, I found myself alone for the first time in many, many years. The house was unnervingly quiet and I was, of course, very lonely. I tried to fill the void with music. I had assembled a collection of Classical audio tapes that I had never really listened to much before then. But to fill the quiet, I decided to start listening to them, especially in the evenings while I cooked and did the dishes at night. I started “at the back”, with Wagner and Vivaldi…as wonderful as Vivaldi was, I remember how “frantic” his Baroque music seemed to sound in my ears, almost nerve-jarring (though I no longer feel that way today). Working my way backwards, it was not too long before I came to Tchaikowsky. The instant I hit the “play” button, the instant his Romantiac themes began to flow from my tape player, I felt this curious feeling of calmness and peace flow over me, something none of the other composers had brought into my heart at that point. A long ago bond was instantly revived, and even expanded as I became acquainted with glorious new compositions that I had never known before. Unlike other composers, which whom I have more “gradually” fallen in love, my love affair with Tchaikowsky’s music was instant and complete. And I have never forgotten, or failed in my gratitude, for the comfort and, yes, joy his music brought to me in those lonely days after the passing of my parents.
So when I realized I had to choose between attending a “live” Tchaikowsky concert and attending the Storymakers Conference, it nearly tore out my heart. Of course, I wanted to do both! But I could only do one. At first, I leaned towards staying home for the concert. I prayed about my decision. The answer did not come in a flash, or even in a stupor of thought, but very, very gradually I felt the Lord moving me towards attending the Storymakers Conference. It didn’t make the decision to leave Tchaikowsky behind any easier, but for whatever reasons (and I’m not saying it means my book will win…merely that the Lord seems to want me to be in Utah that weekend), I surrendered the tickets for my long anticipated concert to another woman in my ward, and made the necessary arrangements to fly to Utah and attend the conference instead.
Now, here’s the miracle. Last week, our dear, dear Anna Arnett’s husband passed away. I remember each time I said my prayers that day and started rattling off a list of things I thought I “needed” that day, I caught myself and said (in so many words) to the Lord, “Heavenly Father, Anna needs you so much more today. My wants and needs are so small compared to her. Please, give all your comfort and attention to her. I can wait for another day.”
That very day, I received an email from my sister, telling me that they were advertising a Tchaikowsky concert by the Utah Symphony for the day I was flying into Salt Lake City, and asking if I’d like her to get tickets for us. Not only that, but they were performing the very same Symphony (No 4) that I would be missing here in Mesa! I could scarcely believe my ears. (Or actually, her email.) Why, I wondered, would the Lord offer me such an incredibly wonderful gift? And why would he even be thinking of me on a day when a dear friend was mourning for her beloved companion and needed his help so much more than I needed such an unexpected boon from his hand?
The answer, after much pondering? In a way far beyond the understanding of my finite, mortal mind, Heavenly Father has time and is able to bless both those who need him in such great depth on a particular day, and still have time to bless those of us whose wants and desires maybe be so much smaller, seemingly insignificant in comparison on that same day. To me, it was testimony that he loves us all and is aware of the desires of our hearts, great and small, and that he need not neglect one of us to have time to remember and bless the rest of us, too. This was a lesson I greatly needed, and pray I can always remember.