Piano melody stirs daughter’s memories

self portrait of mom

Self portrait by Carolyn Samson Leithauser

Linda Milne still missed her mother. Carolyn Samson Leithauser had died a little over a year ago. Linda and her mom had been inseparable. They talked every day. They painted together and, Linda says, “always had a project going.” Tile mosaics, sewing, knitting. At one point they ran a crafts business, creating note cards, jewelry and belts.

Both played the piano and learned from Linda’s grandmother, Grace Farnsworth Samson. Grace was choir director at Jefferson Avenue Baptist Church and organist at Faith Lutheran Church, both in Detroit. Grace played piano by ear as a child. Linda says, “Unfortunately she was taught it wasn’t proper. She learned to play the so-called ‘right’ way, reading the notes and sticking to them.”

I’m currently taking a class in Ragtime music from Linda’s husband Bob. He recently reminded us that no less a musician than J.S. Bach was also a church organist. Unlike Grace’s teacher, Bach believed in improvising. “An organist should not merely play the notes,” Bach said. “He should express the ‘affect,’ …the emotional significance of the piece.”

But I deviate. (Loyal readers know I love to roam. Let’s just call it improvisation.) Back to Linda. Make that Linda’s mom. Carolyn had a favorite piece of music. Whenever she encountered a piano, she sat down and played the lilting melody “Welcome Sweet Springtime.”

Back to Linda. Not long ago, she and Bob were visiting a pool-playing friend. (Did I tell you Bob was also a world champion pool player?) Linda had decided to use the time to answer Christmas notes. A cousin had sent her mother a card. A commander in the Navy, the cousin moved often. Linda realized he hadn’t received the death notice she’d sent a year before. As Bob played pool, Linda pulled out a card from her mother’s memorial service. Just then a familiar tune began playing on the TV: “Welcome, Sweet Springtime.”

Linda jumped up and ran to the screen. It read: Anton Rubinstein, Melody in F. Until then Linda hadn’t known the song’s classical origin.

“There I was,” Linda says, “looking at my mom’s smiling face on the card and ‘by coincidence’ hearing her trademark tune. She’s still with us, keeping in touch in magical ways.”

BTW, Linda’s mom was a teacher. From the Great Beyond, she’s still teaching.

(Thanks, Linda, for sharing this heartwarming story. I hope other readers do likewise.)

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2 thoughts on “Piano melody stirs daughter’s memories

  1. Marilyn Connor

    GodSigns everywhet. But you find them and the stories touch our hearts and the core of our souls. A little improv to each story adds warmth of the spirit. Keep them coming dear wonderful friend.

    PS I bet our family and friends in Michigan are wishing for “welcome sweet Springtime”

    1. Suzy Farbman Post author

      Thanks, Marilyn. Appreciate your frequent and insightful comments. And I’m sure you’re right. Springtime can’t come fast enough in Michigan.

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