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When the Music Stops.

Personally, isolation's left me feeling like a Jane Austen heroine with none of the dances and flirtations that keep the reader entertained for the next six chapters. With concerts, rehearsals and normality nowhere in sight, it's giving many of us more time to think than we'd really like. Especially if like me, you're grieving.

No one ever expects to lose both parents before thirty. Losing two parents within the space of two years, just feels cruel. I was extremely fortunate to grow up in a household surrounded by love. Regardless of how unconventional our set up was, their support and love for their children was united. The one thing they both had in common was a strong love of the arts, especially music. Dad had dabbled in nearly every musical instrument going and Mum was overwhelmingly musical and although she never played, my childhood was filled with song and her threats to dance to "the duck" (more commonly known as "The Swan") in concert. I remember the night I found out my Dad had died, one of my closest friends said to me, "Ruth, your Dad loved you being a cellist, focus on your cello and do it for him". It was true, they were both hugely supportive of my desire to pursue it as a career. Dad, ever the fact-fountain, made sure he knew the background to every piece I was learning and the career of the cellist or quartet I was receiving coaching from that day, just for those "Fun fact" moments. No matter the distance, they'd attend almost every concert I did, they'd help promote my concerts and even act as quartet chauffeur when our designated driver was too sick to drive. Whenever I'd doubt whether music was the right path, Mum was always there with an iron clad argument as to why I shouldn't give up now, mixed with her famous "whatever you decide I'll always support you" and concluded with hugs and tea whilst I went back to practise and try again.

“Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent” - Victor Hugo

If I'm being truly honest, it's only now as we shuffle through the piles of paperwork, I can really begin to understand the financial implications and sacrifice my parents made to make my cello dreams even close to reality. I'll never begin to thank them for that opportunity but I'll damn well try.

I didn't say anything at my Mum's funeral, it was the same with Dad's. Words are not my strength, music is, so I did what I could to sum up their whole lives into roughly three pieces of music. Mum had the humming chorus from Madame Butterfly. I remember when she finally got a chance to see it, it was in Cardiff with the Welsh National Opera, my birthday present to her. I looked over at her a few times that night. One time during the famous "Un bel dì vedremo" aria, she was mouthing every word and her eyes were full. I wonder what memories she held tightly to that aria?

Even as I'm sat here at the top of a hill listening to the 3rd movement of Brahms' Quartet in C minor with the accompaniment of birdsong and that fresh forest after the rain smell, I realise that everything is still moving, life hasn't stopped because mine feels like it has. Life will eventually pick itself up and dust off this pandemic and one day the loss I feel will hurt a little less. Until then, these are just the beautiful memories of a broken heart, well loved.

Ruth x

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