We all have ways that we remember dear folks who have died: Photographs of the deceased may sit on a piece of furniture or shelf or hang from a wall; a cut flower or other small object may be placed in a book; a plant may occupy a place in a garden; the ways to remember someone are only limited by the griever’s need and imagination.
Yesterday I heard of a Carolyn’s death, and the person sharing that news asked that well-used question/statement, “You know Donnie (her husband) died from COVID this past January?, a full eight month ago. Not much news from the Valley reaches us since we moved to Lake Norman five years ago, but some does, just not news of his dying. So when I was told of his death, I went to my shop and opened a particular drawer just to check. The bone with a place where a small piece had been cut away was still there. I held the porkchop bone in my hand and remembered.
Donnie and I met when my wife and I began attending Antioch Church of the Brethren. Over time I learned much about Donnie, such as his devotion to his family, but before long I was also exposed to his musical gifts. I don’t think he could read music, but he sure could play and sing it, especially his fiddle and mandolin. Once he asked me if I could help him with some repairs with his violin because he had been told that I worked with wood. I told him that while I had a small woodshop, I was in no way a luthier. He said that didn’t matter, and we agreed on a day for him to come to our house.
He came early on the chosen day, and he left after lunch, but before supper. The pace of the day was easy as we talked, getting to know one another better, and he showed me a few soft repairs that he wanted to do for his violin. I honestly don’t remember the repairs we made, but he guided me and walked me through each. At best, they were cosmetic ones because I was not qualified to do any major repairs to such an instrument. But I vividly remember the sound post.
We had shared lunch, talked a great deal, done a bit of repair when Donnie said, “Now we need a sound post.” I asked what that was, and he explained the sound post, its function, and showed me where it was to go. He looked around my shop and commented that he saw lots of wood, but did I have any bone because bone was best for that part of a violin. I motioned to the large yard outside the double shop doors and said, “We have three hounds, there must be a bone out there somewhere.” Donnie walked out to the yard and started looking. Soon he returned with a pork chop bone and said, “This’ll work.”
I cleaned the bone and under his patient guidance I cut a piece from it to his specifications. We then inserted the bone sound post, and he picked up his fiddle and tuned it.
Most days in my shop were good ones, but that day was one of the best as I learned about violins. But best of all was that a new friendship was formed, and Donnie picked up his violin, saying, “Let’s see how we did.”
My shop was just a wood shop, but for the next few minutes it was a grand concert hall as Donnie played his fiddle. Few songs have seldom sounded so sweet.