Pass It On

The building is crowded, but an elderly, white-haired woman who had the foresight to get there early has secured a seat in the first row.

It had been hard for an old lady like her to look after a young girl, but worth it. How could she have ever wanted anything different?

People are shuffling in, chatting and whispering. The place will soon be full.

A little girl's high voice rises curiously above the crowd. "Can't she really see, Mummy? How will she play, then?"

The girl on the stage, in the wings, desperately tries to calm herself. She looks as if she will throw up when they announce her. She takes a deep breath, and then they lead her across to the piano. She sits down. All is still, silent, cold. She puts her nervous, quivering fingers on the ivory-white keys and begins to play. As her music fills the room, silence falls on the audience.

That's her granddaughter! She is so proud.

The little girl in the audience whispers loudly again, accusingly this time. "But you said she can't see!"

The melody is as soft and delicate as a feather, a butterfly emerging from its cocoon. It gently comes to life and swirls throughout the room, bewitching the listeners. Tender, fierce love tugs at them.

Her fingers are no longer shaking. It is almost like an angel's hands are over hers, guiding, steady and strong.

Then the melody changes from day to night. It is low, muttering and crying, wrenching at all their hearts, swooping down, down into the deepest pain they have ever felt.

The old lady, in her seat, closes her eyes.

She had cried for days after the crash, until she realised that she was not the only one. Her little granddaughter, blind and only five years old, left motherless and fatherless, needed her just as much as she needed her. They needed each other.

A little spark of hope appears in the music, so sharp and beautiful that it hurts. It weaves a pattern of shimmering joy, and as the music soars, it is like the sun has just entered the room and its golden brilliance is flooding over.

The grandmother watches the girl on the piano. With a heart-aching pang, she remembers another girl's beautiful, long fingers, dancing across the piano, being joy and love. Hers.

Her fingers, her music, her dream. She shakes the troubling thoughts away. It doesn't matter any more.

The song is a murmur of loving voices that binds and fills the hearers' hearts until they feel there cannot possibly be anything more. But there is. The music goes suddenly fast and furious, and the girl, the creator of the music, holds her breath, waiting for the crashing crescendo, her fingers light and sharp on the keys.

The ferocious tempo is violent; waves dashing themselves against jagged rocks that tear at them ruthlessly, over and over and over again. The spray flies up and is a soft mist that gathers in their eyes. The last notes hang in the deep quiet – a lone wolf's howl, a star glittering in the purple twilight.

The audience draws in its breath for a single moment before breaking into thunderous, wondering applause.

The old woman opens her eyes, then squeezes them shut again. Tears leak out.

The words pound in her heart:Well done.

The girl walks lightly across the stage, shaking with excitement and nervousness, pale as if she has just woken from a dream. She did it. She did it.

Afterward, the old woman, with tears of joy on her cheeks, and the girl, hugging her, make their way out of the crowded building.

"That was for you," the girl whispers softly, and her grandmother hears. The girl's young hand clasps the old one tightly, the bent fingers – so long ago given to rheumatism – squeezing gently back.

The words that are unspoken shift on the breeze:

You – the one who cannot feel the music flow under her fingers any longer, the one who encouraged me to never ever give up, the one who gave me the dream... this is for you.