Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Guardian Angels

During the past year I have lost two dear friends….both part of my cheering section during the development of my Gena Project, the recording of my CD and my one-woman show.

Loss is always a difficult item for us to face. As children we are invincible, as teenagers infallible, as young adults we know we have years to accomplish what we want – the world is ours on a silver platter. The years fly by and slowly we have reached the age where we notice those few lines on our faces, our bodies have those creaks and pains and then a stark reality, a dear friend dies. What happened to our invincibility, infallibility and the abundant years?

So, I have faced this kind of loss not just once but recently, twice. Two lovely, strong women, individuals in their own right, supporters of the arts and music, and people whose footprints will forever be on my heart.

I met Millie McGonagle while I was a student at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota. She attended student recitals and opera productions encouraging all of us to keep up our studies.

After I left Minnesota to attend graduate school, Millie would write asking me to keep her informed of my performances and auditions. When I returned home we would meet for lunch to discuss my career or concerts and operas we had attended. We always had a great time laughing and enjoying one another’s company.

When I shared with Millie my having found the music of Gena Branscombe and the recording of a CD, her enthusiasm was infectious. She cheered me on. Her Christmas cards arrived with questions as to how the entire project was going. Our infrequent phone conversations were filled with our passion for classical music and the continuance of our sweet friendship.

A trained pianist and at one time a music teacher, Millie was a big fan of the Metropolitan Opera’s Spring Tour to Minneapolis where she attended all seven operas presented. She supported the Minnesota Orchestra’s concerts performed at nearby St. Benedict’s College.

Millie passed away on June 6, 2010. A dear person, gracious, elegant, humor-filled and one whose enthusiasm reached the level of guardian angel for many a young singer. Millie you are missed. Knowing her as I did, it is my belief she is still watching over each and every one of us. Thank you for deeply touching my life.

My dear friend Kathy Neeb died on April 18, 2009. Acquaintances since High School and dear friends from our days as music majors at St. Cloud State, eventually Kathy went on to become a registered nurse and a published author of a textbook on Fundamentals of Mental Health Nursing. Impressive, indeed! She remained a choir singer and a big fan of classical music.

Through thick and thin Kathy stuck by me as a friend. She waved goodbye as I left Minnesota to attend graduate school and then on to New York City. She called or wrote to discuss what was up with my career. Her ability to be my friend through my own personal difficult times reached depths I was unable to accept or comprehend yet there she was with a smile, a hug, her quick cackling laugh and forgiveness. A down-home, no-nonsense person she was!

Kathy was the first of my friends with whom I shared the idea that I might take on my Gena project. This unusual music I found….no one had performed it, maybe a CD and all the other items that came my way during my project found Kathy’s enthusiasm and cheering almost deafening. She kept telling me to follow my instincts, follow the road that was ahead of me and her advice on how I might proceed, was wisdom filled.

She was unable to travel to New York for the premiere of “Life! Love! Song! A Visit with Gena Branscombe.” Though her physical presence was not there, her heart and spirit were with me.

December 27, 2008 I called to wish Kathy a Belated Happy Birthday when she told me she was not feeling well. A few weeks later Kathy was still under the weather and at the end of January 2009 saw a doctor. Early February 2009 she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Devastating news! Yet true to her indomitable spirit she fought as hard as any person could possibly fight. Her family surrounded her with support, research for cancer treatments and trips to Chicago for the best care possible. She lost her battle.

Two great women….now my personal guardian angels. Thank you for sharing your lives with the music world. You are missed.

No comments:

Post a Comment