The Musician’s Hands

When I play my violin, I remember my father, the musician. Papi was small in stature, but when he picked up an instrument, sat down at the piano, or sang, he could capture the attention of anyone around him. These people didn’t know his name or where he came from. They called him ‘The Music Man.’ He was the man who told me that it doesn’t matter where I’m seated in orchestra because he’d be proud of me regardless. He seemed to create something beautiful with his instruments. 

Papi’s hands were callused from playing his instruments, and I don’t think there was ever a time during my childhood when his hands weren’t torn up from his labor of love. I helped my father craft beauty when I held his hand as a small child, when we walked across the street or even into the church for Mass on Saturday nights or on holy days. I was captivated when I found that I, too, could craft beauty. I’ve seen others become captivated by their newly discovered ability to do the same. I’ve seen them become intoxicated by melodies and harmonies. 

My father wasn’t just a musician. He taught music, and because he shared music with others the world is a little brighter. My father didn’t study music in college, but music was his calling. He did what he loved, and encouraged me to do the same. I wasn’t always open to music. When I was fifteen, my father died suddenly, and who I thought I was fall apart. There was an unbearable silence in my life. There was no music, no violin, no singing. I was, literally, drowning in the silence. But after all that, I’m open to music now. It’s a connection to heaven. 

It took me awhile to realize music is my connection to Papi. Each note; a word; each measure; a sentence; each song’s a letter from my father, and only I can read it. I see his hands, and it doesn’t matter whether they’re playing an instrument or gently stroking my hair, I see them for what they are beyond the calluses. My father the musician, was (and still is) my guide through life. He’s still walking with me, and holding my hand. His hand is still callused from the music. 

I look at my own hands, and I see those of my father. The same calluses from the same labor of love. It’s a bittersweet moment and memory, but I hold this close to my heart as a reminder of how much my father impacts me and of how he made me who I am. Music is my way of talking to Papi, and his way of talking to me. My hands are torn, but they’re healing, just like the wounds I have from my father’s sudden death. It’s a small price that I have to pay, this violinist’s struggle, but I see it as a labor of love, just like my Papi did.

“Music, great music, distends the spirit, arouses profound emotions, and almost naturally invites us to raise our minds and hearts to God in all situations of human existence, the joyful and the sad. Music can become prayer.”

-Pope Benedict XVI


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