Twenty-three years ago I lost my father. My father who was handsome, funny, loving, adventure- seeking, full of life, lover of everything Hawaiian, talented musician, Local 47 Union member and my dad. He had the most beautiful voice I’ve ever heard and he played guitar beautifully.
He was a professional musician and he prayed to St. Cecilia every time he sang. He was very devoted to St. Cecilia, who is the patron saint of music. At the age of 56 he was told he had cancer. The cancer started in his prostate, but had spread to almost his entire body including his bones. His last wish was to see the tomb of St. Cecilia.
It so happened that she is buried in Rome and I was scheduled to go to Rome to conduct, so I took my father with me. He went to her tomb and sang her a Spanish song called “De Colores.” This was my father’s last wish and he fulfilled it.
It wasn’t long after that that I sat at his bedside for two weeks and watched him slowly die. This was before the personal computer existed, no Internet, no iPhones, and no iPad, no browsing the internet or “liking” posts on Facebook. I just sat and watched him die in agonizing pain. I was with him all day, but could not have conversations with him because he was under such heavy doses of morphine for his pain. I spoke to him, I read to him and held his hand. He died on a September afternoon. My sister in Texas, Sylvia, called me to tell me he was dying. She held the phone while I said goodbye. I heard him take his last breath.
A few months after, I started an orchestra. In my father’s honor I named it Santa Cecilia Orchestra after the patron saint of music.
This year, 2014, I returned to Rome on a personal pilgrimage to visit the tomb of Saint Cecilia. On a June day with 100 degrees temperature I, along with my husband and son, walked from the Vatican after a private audience with Pope Francis to Trastervere to the church of St. Cecilia. We walked a lot to find the area then to find the church. We kept being led the wrong way and felt like we were going in circles. My feet were hurting so badly that I finally said a prayer to St. Cecilia to help me and give me a sign. At that moment (true story) a bell starting ringing and ringing loudly and did not stop. We followed the sound of the bell down an alley and around a block and the moment it stopped was the moment we found St. Cecilia’s church. Two hours later… 23 years later, I was there at her tomb. Thank you dad, thank you St. Cecilia.