The Absence of Music
By Kelsey Bright
I think it might be the absence of music I’ll miss most. The piano no one else can play, the violin that long ago sounded scratchy and discordant but slowly morphed into an instrument providing melodies that expressed sadness and excitement in equal measures. And, the singing! How I will miss the singing. Rarely are there quiet times when music fills her heart so completely.
As parents, we recognize that our own experiences will not always be enough to fully support our children. This is particularly true when we encounter situations where our children possess talents or identities that differ from our own. Early on, Craig and I knew that, as non-musical parents, we were headed into new territory. After adopting Isabelle in China, we brought home an extremely unhappy and desperately ill baby. During her early years of hospitalizations, treatments, and finally recovery, Isabelle clung stubbornly to me; relinquishing her grip only briefly when a Music Therapist visited her
world. Music invaded our lives in a welcome wave of warmth and comfort.
Like most people, the reality of where we thought we were going as parents ended up differently from where we actually arrived. After our first daughter, Anna, was born weighing just over a pound, we thought to outsmart God by adopting a child because we did not want to repeat the nightmare of the preemie experience. We selected China because most of the babies and children adopted from there are healthy, which was our main consideration after Anna’s early arrival. After months and months of waiting, we were handed the world’s most beautiful but angry baby. It turned out Isabelle was suffering from a rare blood disorder that is fatal if not treated with a bone marrow transplant within a small window of time. The saying, “men make plans and God laughs” was certainly true for us. The days, weeks, and months that followed her adoption were filled with insulting medical torments and long hospital stays. One huge difference from Anna’s hospitalization to Isabelle’s was music. While Music
Therapy must have been around when Anna was in the hospital, it wasn’t a part of her experience, but it certainly was for Isabelle. Therapists with harps, guitars, maracas, and CDs arrived with beautiful regularity to our hospital cocoon and later to our home. It gave us hope and peace.
After Isabelle aged out of music therapy and we exhausted our singing abilities, Craig and I knew we were in over our heads and started a 15-year journey of music lessons, buying violins that “looked pretty” but sounded to us like every other violin in the shop, and musical auditions. I think one of the most beautiful parts of parenting is not only seeing the curiosities you’ve already experienced through their eyes, but also seeing things that are new to you through their eyes. All of this was new to us and what it joy these years have brought.
We saw not only how music provided emotional and developmental support to Isabelle but how instrumental it was to her overall health. Music was there for Isabelle in those early dark days when her life was overwhelmed with pain and confusion and music stayed with her as she grew and it became a rock for her to climb onto as she navigated the times of racial upheaval and anti-Asian sentiments.
Isabelle and I bonded in China; that bond grew during the years of her illness and continued to grow over time. She’s painfully honest, intelligent, independent of thought, and affectionate. Isabelle and I joke that is she is my ride-or-die, but it’s no joke, this kid is lodged in my heart. I appreciate each day, conversation, selfie, shopping trip, and snuggle with Isabelle.
And, I appreciate the music she brought to our lives and I will miss it when she moves away. Music provided a valuable source of solace, growth, and empowerment for Isabelle when we, as parents, couldn't provide it ourselves. For that I am deeply grateful.
Isabelle will be attending Elizabethtown College (Craig’s alma mater) to study music therapy in August 2023.