At the very beginning of my summer, the day after my son's eighth grade graduation, we got the horrible news that Paula had died. Even though she had suffered so much pain and trauma over the 9 months after her fall which resulted in a brain injury, we still held out hope that she would one day recover. But knowing she is in a place without suffering is an answered prayer.
So who is Paula? Well, the easiest explanation is that she was my piano teacher's wife. To the general person, that may not seem like much, but as I started thinking about what most people think, I have really begun realizing why I put so much effort into my students and why I think being with the "right" piano teacher is so important.
At the beginning of this huge loss, I was so confused as to why people were asking me who Paula was and why was my entire family at her funeral? To be honest, I was dumbfounded. Jerry, my piano teacher, and Paula were a huge part of my family. They became part of our life when I was 8 years old. Paula worked for the Dallas County Commissioner, and regularly ate at my parent's restaurant. She had told my parents that her husband was a piano teacher, and literally the rest is history. My parents instantly became friends. We had piano twice a week, with all 4 of our lessons back to back, which meant we were at their home for hours. Paula ended up spending evenings with my family while Jerry accompanied the Dallas Symphony Chorus every Monday night. She helped us with homework- in fact, she was an amazing tutor! Seriously, I have no idea how I would have gotten through 7th and 8th grade history or Ursuline without her help!
As our lessons continued and our relationship became stronger, Jerry and Paula went on family vacations with us. They never had their own children and it's not really a secret that they adopted us. They even came to Greece with us! In college, I had a trip to New York that had me a little freaked out, and Paula took off from work to come with me. Paula, especially, was like a second mom to me and my 3 siblings. Even just writing this brings tears to my eyes.
It wasn't just my family. To explain how many students Jerry and Paula affected is not even possible. Together they attended countless student weddings, college graduations, and music productions. They supported every single student. I can't count how many of his students reached out to Jerry with Paula's death or were at her funeral.
I can't possibly give enough of a tribute to Paula's life. I can smile when I see my wedding certificate, and know that Paula's signature is on it (this is where working at the Dallas county comes in handy! I remember her so giddy with excitement taking care of this for me and Brian). I think of all of the ways my "piano teacher" affected my life, and it's not all at the piano! When I say that relationships are important, this is where it stems from. I'm not saying that you will have the same sort of relationship with your piano teacher, but there will be a lot of influence both at and away from the instrument.
Even just today, one of my students was dropping off her brother for a guitar camp and she wanted to stay and "help me work". I love being invited to my old student's weddings! I still stay in touch with them, even if it's just through holiday cards each year. This one bit of family and kindness is what our world is. And it's important. Life is short and relationships are important. I know we all stay so busy, but Paula has made me realize that we all need to slow down and enjoy each other and life just a little more.