Advent Calendar Day 20 – Dona Nobis Pacem

My grandfather died today.  He was 91, and had actually been doing very well for someone who had an awful lot of very dodgy organs for some time, beating all comers at chequers and scopa and apparently being something of a social center at the nursing home where he has been since March.  He’d only really been sick for a few days – and it was only yesterday when it started to look serious.  We found out this morning that everything was failing and it was only a matter of time, and mum rang at around 10:30, while I was in an all-Institute meeting, to say that he was unconscious and she was heading down to the LaTrobe Valley (2 hours away) to say goodbye.

Only at 11:00, I had to conduct our much-advertised and anticipated final work choir performance.  We even had a harp to accompany us.  This did not seem like something I could cancel at the last minute.  Also, I needed to get my head around what was going on, and a choir break seemed like the way to go.

So I went down and conducted and sang, which was unbelievably surreal, because we were actually doing really well and even had fancy things like dynamics, and sometimes I was fully in the music, but mostly I was either encouraging different parts or  calculating all the things I had to do this week and working out which ones I could drop and whether I could get down there today or tomorrow and how I was going to get everything done and who I could give various tasks to.

We sing Silent Night in five languages, including Italian, and the Italian version made me think of Nonno, so we sang it twice.  And we sang, too, a piece that isn’t strictly a Christmas carol, but seems appropriate to this or any season – Dona Nobis Pacem.  And I have to say, we have never sung it so well.  So we did that one twice, too.

And then I gave everyone cake, thanked them, and ran upstairs to send a flurry of emails delegating everything in sight and to let my bosses know that I was off to Morwell.  And about half an hour after I got there, Nonno quietly stopped breathing.

So that was that.  I’m not feeling especially Adventish today, but if Dona Nobis is good enough for my choir, it’s good enough for this Advent Calendar.  The only flaw in this version is that she stops after the very first time you get three parts – I wanted it to keep going for a lot longer.

(oh, and there was one moment of humour in the afternoon, when we were discussing whether Nonno should be buried wearing his wedding ring.  “He’d better be,” said one of my aunts.  “Mum will be really annoyed if he gets there and he’s lost another one!”.  Apparently, Nonno went through three or four rings during his marriage, and Nonna used to get understandably upset with him for losing them!)

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