After Missy's death we came in contact with Pastor Brian Morgan at PBCC. He and his wife had experienced the loss of two children in infancy and he was well acquainted with grief and sorrow. He was planning a summer trip to Romania, the purpose of which was to teach the book of Mark and to share life stories at a family camp in the Romanian mountains. He suggested that I come along to tell my story of life and loss, and how it integrated with my faith, at the conference. I agreed, and my daughter Julie and I made our plans for travel with this little group.
Then Brian had another surprise - he explained that I should be prepared for some special occurrence to flow from my telling of my story. He suggested that I would bring a little silver locket with a picture of Missy inside and that I should be prepared to present it to the person God brings my way. He didn't know who it would be or how it would come about, but was quite confident that it would be clear once we arrived.
We arrived in Simbateni, Romania after a long flight, an overnight in Budapest, and a wild train ride through the border and across the Romanian countryside. Our arrival date was Missy's birthday, 2000. The next day I met several Romanians who would be attending the conference. One young man excitedly came to me after hearing my story, "My sister plays the oboe!" She would not be at the conference, but his parents would. "Would you like to meet them?" Iosif and I parted with a meeting the next day in mind.
That next day we traveled to the conference site, deep in the Romanian forest, and found a lush green campground, replete with quaint little cabins, waiting. As the day progressed, Romanian families arrived, settling in, greeting one another and greeting our small band of Americans. It wasn't too long until Iosif came to me with his parents , Viorel and Angelica, in tow. We greeted in the Romanian way of kisses on each cheek, then spoke of our families, their travel, the upcoming conference. Shortly, with tears in their eyes, they spoke tenderly of Missy and this great loss, expressing their sadness and heartache over the news which Iosif had earlier given them.
The next day, Brian and I spoke of what a "coincidence" this was - to have a Romanian family there with a young daughter who played the oboe! We decided at that moment that the locket, with the little picture of Missy, should go to Ana - fellow oboist, follower of Christ, and dear daughter of Viorel and Angelica. The following day, I shared my story again - the "official" version - and after the telling asked Viorel and Angelica to come forward. With tears all around, the little silver locket was presented to Viorel with the request that he would present it with a kiss to his daughter when he returned home, remembering Missy and my story to her.
Morning broke the next day, bright and clear as it had been each day there in the Romanian mountains. We had our breakfast and then our teaching time began. As it came to a close, from a distance we heard music - soft at first, then louder until it was recognizable as that distinctly haunting sound of the oboe! There in the forest of Romania, an oboe had invaded our midst! We turned to see a young girl walking toward us, playing the loveliest of melodies! It was Ana! Her family had called her to come, come quickly, across the entire country of Romania by train, to be here at daybreak! How she made the trip I'll never know, but make it she did. And now, in the next fifteen minutes, I found myself being called to the front with Viorel handing me back the locket so that I would have the privilege of placing that silver heart shaped pendant, with its image of Missy tucked safely inside, around Ana'a neck!
Over the next few days I learned much of Ana's story - of her interest in the oboe and music in general, of her family of six people living there in Galati in the church parsonage, of her father's persecution by the Orthodox Church for his interest and pursuit of the more open and Biblically based church in Romania. I also saw her oboe, an old wooden affair that had seen much too much use, with a cracked bell and keys rubbed through. I held it and wept - for Missy, for Ana, for the heartache I had seen in so many of these Romanian's lives, for her father's persecution - as this broken, used up oboe brought a wellspring of emotion to my mind: of loss, of the pain of life, and of the unfairness and despair of it all. Yet at the same time, I could see the joy in Ana's eyes as she played this broken instrument, full of hope for the future, for her future life, whatever it may be. This crystalizing so well in my mind the recurring theme of many Romanians' lives - hope despite brokenness, hopefulness in the face of seemingly overwhelming circumstances. Together with Brian, a decision was made: upon our return to America, we would work toward getting a brand new oboe for Ana.
I contacted Mark Chudnow, an oboe maker in Napa who had made Missy's first oboe, who enthusiastically agreed to the project. Donors were solicited, funds were collected, and an oboe was made. Bright shiny silver keys, brilliant black finish, and a laser etched inscription in Romanian, "For Ana - May east and west kiss in every oboe breath - given in memory of Missy."
We gathered an oboist's "dream team" of music supplies - a metronome, tuner, the Vade Mecum for oboe, Barrett's Oboe Methods, other sheet music, a silk swab, reed supplies, CDs, etc. - and made plans for a family trip to personally deliver this special instrument to Ana, to meet her family, and to have east join west once again. A December trip was scheduled - we all would go, in memory of Missy, on this adventure of a lifetime. We arrived in Galati on December 26, after an all- night wintry train ride across the Romanian countryside (we found extra pillows in neighboring compartments on the train to pack around ourselves as insulation to keep from freezing!). Viorel, Angelica, Iosif, Peter, Ana, and Elena welcomed us into their humble abode, the parsonage of the church of which Viorel was a priest. One of the first orders of business was to unpack all the myriad music supplies for Ana. We set them up on the couch in the little living room and invited Ana in to receive the oboe for which she had waited since summer. Oh, the look on her face! What joy to behold! She was expecting a used oboe for some reason and knew nothing of the other gifts! She was quite dumbfounded. Her teacher came the next day, played the new oboe with her, and said, "Oh, Ana, what a beautiful tone! You will love this oboe!"
We smiled - if only Missy could have been there! - a bittersweet trip for us, born of our loss of our dear Missy, bringing us all together to share the love of Christ, our love of music, and our loving memory of Missy with another family and a special young lady Ana in another culture halfway around the globe, yet near as the morning sun is to the eastern shore.
Ana has now completed her high school studies at the consevatory high school in Galati. She competed for a position at a university conservatory and won a spot at the conservatory in Iasi. At a second entrance competition in Iasi she played oboe in front of a group of judges which included a professor from the country's main conservatory university in Bucharest. After the audition, she was called by him and offered a position in the entering class in Bucharest! Our heartfelt thanks to God for her diligence and success, and great congratulations to Ana for her hard work!
Follow the links at left to learn more about the work of the Foundation, the Benefit Concerts, or the CDs which are currently available.