My Dad’s Piano

Saturday morning and my doorbell rings.  I peek through the window and see my cousin standing outside of my door.  My cousin has only been to my house once in the last few years.  He asks me if I had seen my father because he did not show up at church and he is not answering his phone.  My father not answering his phone was not something that normally had me worried but the fact that he was the choir director and did not show up got my attention.  My cousin also mentioned that his car was not parked at his home.  I jumped in my car and had my cousin follow me to my father’s house.   I had just visited my father at his home the night before and we chatted for a few minutes before I left.

On my way to my father’s house I thought maybe he was in a car accident on his way to church or maybe he left the house after I left last night.  I called two local hospitals to see if maybe my father was there but both hospitals confirmed that there was no one listed there with my father’s name.

When I arrived at his house I quickly unlocked the door.  For years my father had preached to me about security and making sure I locked the top and bottom lock at the front door of my house.  The weird thing is that only his bottom lock was locked.   I remember having a feeling that something was off.  After walking into the foyer I noticed a faint smell. My father loved to garden and he kept maybe 30 different flowers inside his home so at first I thought maybe the smell was coming from them or maybe he forget to dispose of the garbage.  I walked upstairs and the smell got worse and it was when I got to the top of the stairs and looked into his bedroom that I felt something was wrong.  I saw clothes strewn across the place, and his drawers emptied out onto the floor.  Funny enough when I stopped by the night before my father was packing for a trip to Jamaica he had coming up in a few days.  I kept thinking what the hell, what the hell is going on and then it hit me that something was very wrong.   I ran out of the house to discover my cousin talking to the neighbor and I remember telling him call the police now….

When the police arrived we explained everything that occurred up to the point of them being called.  They went inside the house and then they came out and one of the officers told me that my father was still inside the house.  Apparently his body was found in the closet of the guest room wrapped up in a Persian rug.   Death by what appeared to be strangulation.  It was at that point that I completely lost it.  My father, my best friend and closest confidant was gone forever. To this day I am so thankful that I did not venture into the guests bedroom and discover… It’s one thing to know that a loved one was taken away from you violently but to actually be the one to discover…. I just can’t image the nightmares that I would probably trail me for the rest of my life.  That maybe the only thing that I can be thankful about.  Well that and the detectives who worked the case.   When I started writing this post I thought I could tell the story from the beginning to the end.  I can’t.

Actually maybe I can.  You can’t imagine the different emotions running through me when I realized that I was never going to see my father again. I remember crawling on the ground, screaming and punching the concrete beneath me.  I was the last person to see my dad alive.  Well apparently not the last one, but I saw my father around 8:30pm the night he died.    The coroner estimated that his time of death was around 10pm.   It was a surreal feeling having to go down to the police station a few hours later and be questioned by the detectives that took the case.   I don’t blame them at all for questioning me I was just in shock and frankly I wanted justice to be served.   I always wondered what would have happened if I had come over an hour later.  Would I have been able to prevent this from happening?  Or…..

Well it took just a few weeks for the police to find the people who took my father’s life.  Turns out that the people involved took my drove my father’s car down to GA and committed another murder within 13 days after they took my father’s life.  The idiots then tried to sell my fathers 30K Acura to someone for $500.  It was due to the failed sale of the vehicle why they got caught.   What saddens me is that they went there not only of the intention of robbing my father but to make sure he would not live talk about it.  And to think that they went through all of this trouble for a few hundred dollars?  What human kills someone for a few hundred dollars and takes a vehicle that is worth a decent amount of change and tries to sell it for a few hundred dollars.  Drug addicts maybe?  I wish that were the case.  Turns out that the people involved were a 17 year old boy, his 19-year-old sister and her boyfriend.  The sister and her boyfriend were not tried in Maryland due to the fact that GA had them for the murder. They did extradite the 17-year-old to Maryland and my family spent a week going to the trial.  DNA evidence found the  17 year old’s skin under my dad’s fingernails.

It was also very weird being approached by the boy’s family.  They offered their condolences and throughout the trial I would watch the tears stream down his mothers face.  I could not imagine raising not one but two children that committed murders.  I kept looking at the boy who was 17 years old,  about 160 lbs with dirty blonde hair and I found it hard imagining that he was such a monster.  He spoke like a regular teenaged boy and was very polite during the trial but yet he had helped to kill two people over the course of two weeks.   Sadly I could not drum up too much sympathy for the boy’s family.

This Piano was a staple in our home as a child.  For a few hours almost every evening my father could be found playing it.  Music was to my father what photography is to me.  I remember from kindergarten through second grade he was the music teacher at the christian academy I attended.   Even later when he started his company he still taught music in the evenings.  I was amazed to see how many of his students showed up for his funeral.  It was nice to see how many lives he touched through music throughout the years.  His Piano now sits in my basement.  Although I have not played for many years and I may never play again but I don’t think I will ever be able to let it go.  As I am writing this I can’t help  glancing over my shoulder now and then to look at the Piano.

Writing this post has been harder than I thought it would ever be.   I thought about sharing links to the many news articles surrounding this story..  I decided not to.  I don’t want those criminals to be the subject of this post.  Everyone copes differently.  I admit I have only been to visit his grave site twice since he has passed 5+ years ago.  I drive by the cemetery a few times a year thinking that today is the day I will face the fact that his body is in the ground but I have real problem with that.  I rather look over my shoulder and envision him playing his favorite song, Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata on his piano.

The one thing I will say is that my father loved people.  He was the type of person that literally would talk to just about anyone.  I can’t count the numerous people who were down on their luck or needed financial assistance and he would try and help in any way he could.  In some ways he was naïve and way too trusting of people.  A year before he passed he received a letter from the son of a friend of his in Jamaica.  The gentleman was   attending medical school and needed money for books.  The guy did not ask for anything but my father knew him when he was a child and his father had recently passed from cancer. He sent down a few thousand dollars to help pay for some books and tuition fees.   I cannot tell you how many relatives or friends of friends he allowed to stay in his house over the years to allow them to get back on their feet.  People just don’t do things like that and to be honest I sure wouldn’t.  I really wish I could say I was made of the same cloth but I can’t.  Over years it would never come as a surprise to see someone I never met over at his house having dinner.  It was no wonder that when he passed people from all over the country flew in for his funeral.  The church was so filled with people paying respects that all the overflow rooms had to be utilized for the service.

Maybe a part of him is within me.  It could be the reason I love photographing weddings and portraits.  People interest me.  I love hearing about other peoples upbringing and life experiences.  I truly enjoy meeting new people and photography gives me that opportunity.  I also know how precious memories are.  Just last night while having dinner with my wife I realize how many wonderful memories I had and places I had visited due to having such a wonderful and adventurous father.

My daughter was only three when he passed and my son had just turned one.  He absolutely loved watching them all by himself and would show up almost twice a week to take them to the park.  Even though my wife and I were nervous sometimes because of the way he drove we knew they were in good hands.   Sadly my children will never remember him….  His birthday would have been celebrated tomorrow and he would have been 67 years old. I only hope he knew how much I loved him and I wish I would have told him so the last night that I saw him.  Of all of his possessions this piano is something that I will never be able to part with. It sits on the other side of the room in my basement just behind my little office.   It may sound a little weird but sometimes when I am editing photographs I leave the T.V. off and start humming tunes that he played on this piano.

Howard County Wedding & Portrait Photographers

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16 thoughts on “My Dad’s Piano

  1. I can’t even imagine what it must have been like for you. It’s hard enough to lose a parent by natural causes, and losing one to violence is beyond my comprehension. I am so sorry for your devastating loss. I know how difficult it is to go to a gravesite or place where a parent died. When my father passed away (of natural causes), it was several years before I could take out photos of him and watch videos of him. It just brought up too many raw emotions. It’s been 23 years now since my dad passed and I can finally remember the joy and the good times. I’m glad you have his piano to remember his best times.

    • Thank you Maralee. Every now and then I wonder if I am a bad son. Mainly because I have not been to visit his grave in over three years. This year I am determined to visit and pay my respects to him. I just can’t say when. You mentioned viewing photographs of your father. I have yet to look through all of my family albums because of the pain I think it would cause. His piano will always have a place in my home. I could not imagine letting it go..

  2. I’m so sorry MD, I can’t even fathom what you went through. It’s such a tragedy! I lost both my parents due to health problems but when involves crime, injustice is unfair and tragic.

  3. I am so sorry for the very tragic way you lost your dad, and I appreciate the bravery it took for you to write this post. My mom’s death was sudden, and I know how long it took for things to start to seem normal again; I can’t even imagine the healing process that has to happen when you lose your parent to a crime.

    That piano is such a powerful symbol of who your dad was, and I am glad that you are able to have it in your own home now.

    Also – the photo of the piano is very, very nice.

    • I took that photo a few weeks ago. When I started the blog post I did not really know where I was going to go with it. I thought maybe I would talk about the company that made the Piano and how long they have been making them. But every time I looked at the photo I saw my dad. While sitting in front of my computer everything that happened started playing out in my mind. Although my friends and family know what happened I have never really gone into detail about how everything unfolded. In a way I think writing about it helped me a little bit. I am sure the healing process has started and maybe this post is a part of that. I am sorry to hear that your mother’s death was also sudden. Never having the chance to say good bye is tough. Knowing how my father’s life was taken from is extremely difficult for me to deal with so I don’t. I find myself hiding the memories deep inside the vault somewhere in my brain. The problem is whenever a memory sneaks out I want to curl up and crawl under a bed and grieve. He really was such a great man and loved my so many people. Throughout my childhood he always said whatever he did he did for us. My sister and I.

      The impact of his death did not just effect my life but my sister’s as well, probably more so. My sister was born with a severe case of cerebral palsy and when my parents divorced my father was the one to take care of her. My mother wanted both of us but with a bad back she realized that she would not be able to take care of her as well as he could. . He had the house setup to have special railings installed so he could take her up and down the stairs when necessary. A few years ago my mother moved to North Carolina. Due to the events that took place she has since moved back. For years he would have to leave whatever he was doing to get her off the bus at 2pm. A year prior to his death he finally had to place her in a home. Thankfully the home she was placed in was only a 10 minute drive from his house. He would stop by and visit her frequently and on most weekends take her home with him. My sister probably does not know why he no longer comes around. A part of me feels as though she knows that he is gone forever but I don’t know. Anyways I am sure this post had tons of grammatical errors but I could not bring myself to go over it again .

      Out of 7 siblings my father was the only one to finish college. He went on to obtain his master’s degree later on in life. It was due to a music scholarship why he was able to accomplish much of what he did in life. The piano was one of his most expensive purchases after he finished college and it was in the house prior to me being born. I could never let it go.. :-). Thanks again Melinda

      • Writing it down WILL help; maybe not right away, but it will.

        Your father was an amazing, accomplished man, and you have done such a good job with your initial post and with your response to my comment that I sort of feel like I knew him. I know I would have liked him.

        Hang in there; it gets better. I promise.

        I wrote this piece – http://miscandsoforth.wordpress.com/2012/03/11/may-hold-hidden-dangers/ – after I lost my mom. Making the decision to post it on a blog was hard – it took several years after I wrote it before I was ready to share it. Writing helped, but I still cry when I read it. But we’re lucky that we had the kinds of parents we did, that we still feel their loss so acutely.

      • Wow. Thanks for sharing your story with me. You are an amazing human being for being able to be there for your father the way you were. I am having a hard time imagining you slipping your mother’s wedding ring off of her finger. I can’t imagine how tough that must have been for you and it makes me wonder if watching a loved one die is far worse than what I encountered. I want to say there is no way I could have done what you did. Your father is extremely lucky to have you as his daughter. Even while dealing with your pain you were able to be his rock throughout the ordeal.

        “ Almost anything would trigger a flood of grief but the hardest of these were the ones that snuck in and kicked me before I knew what was about to happen”. That’s exactly what happened to me on Sunday. As I mentioned I took a few photographs of the piano a few weeks ago. But I was focused on trying to create the image and it was not until I started thinking about the Piano and all that it represented. That’s when I broke down and I just could not stave off all of the memories. I kept fighting to push them back in and lock the door but it was too late .

        You are so right in regards to being lucky to have the parents that we did. Growing up my father was the disciplinarian. It was always work first and play later with him. While other kids were out having fun I was doing extra homework on the weekends . When my parents divorced it was easy to guess why I chose to live with my mother. He only lived 15 minutes away so I still spent quite a bit of time with him. When I went to boarding school in Virginia for high school he would come up twice a month to visit, take me out to lunch and go grocery shopping etc. It was probably when I turned 18 that I realized how lucky I was to have a father like the one I had. He was too big a part of my life for me to ever forget. So I am trying to learn how to go about remembering the good times without remembering why he is no longer here.

        Thanks again for sharing your story with me Melinda 🙂

  4. What a heart-wrenching tragedy for you and your family, I am so sorry for your loss. May your memories of your father live forever in your heart. Know that your father is smiling, playing the piano, and watching over you from above as you work in your office. The piano capture is beautiful, what a treasure to have and share with your children.

  5. I cannot even begin to imagine what you went through. Your story was absolutely heart breaking and I am so very sorry for your loss. Your dad sounds like he was a wonderfully altruistic and giving soul and surely the world has suffered for him being taken so early. My heart goes out to you and your family. The photograph of the piano is beautiful, just as your dad was.

    • Thanks Lisa! I am blessed to have so many wonderful memories that my father gave me. One of my favories is the year before he passed. We went to an amusement park and spent the day riding all of the rides together. We both took off of work and had a blast together. We had quite a few moments like that but this one was particulary special because it was just the two of us acting like kids.

  6. How a tragic and dramatic experience for you and your family. I can’t imagine what you’ve gone through. I can tell you loved your father very much, and the beautiful shot of the piano is a lovely tribute.

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