“Chopin Etudes”, a grieving widow said to me in a sudden burst of clarity. I didn’t expect her to think clearly about music for a funeral she hadn’t known a few days earlier she would be planning, but though still in shock, this was something about which she was certain. “Chopin Etudes” I repeated, already wondering which ones might still be in my fingers after many years away from them. She loved listening to them, she said, finding them to be strong and beautiful.
What was clear to me at the funeral is that she was strong and beautiful and that the husband she grieved brought passion and joy to his work as much as to his family. The Chopin Etudes were perfect, even if everyone in the congregation sat there wondering why I was playing five flamboyantly virtuosic pieces at such a somber occasion.
Spending the weekend practicing some of these etudes gave me a renewed appreciation for the beauty that is to be found in work. Chopin wrote pieces that do indeed require a great deal of work, as he examined different piano techniques in each of the 24 etudes, but they are so full of passion and beauty that practicing them becomes a joy.
One word came up several times as people remembered the too-young dead husband – passion. The word’s Latin root, pati, means to suffer, but having passion for something no longer seems to carry any weight of suffering, though anyone who has loved anything or anyone to the point of passion knows there is always an element of suffering in that love. And anyone who has practiced Chopin Etudes knows that there is an element of suffering in that work, but the notes are overlaid by a passion for music’s power over our emotions, and the beauty inherent in work becomes obvious.
It’s a cliché – “find your passion.” We might be better advised to bring passion to whatever we are doing. Bringing a joyful zeal for work – and I certainly don’t mean only paid work on a career path – can only inspire those around us and perhaps bring us that much closer to God’s plan for us to live a life of joy.