Monday, February 1, 2010

Music Was Our Refuge

The epitaph on Chris’s grave marker says, “Music Was My Refuge.” It is a most appropriate way to remember a man who was a church choir director, a pianist and an organist, a community theater actor, a Norwegian Folk dancer, and a longtime patron of the opera and symphony.

Music is what brought Chris and I together. I met him when he hired me to sing in our church choir nine years ago. Many of my finest memories of our relationship revolve around music. Whether we were performing with the choir, enjoying an opera together or listening to our favorite Peggy Lee Christmas album, music always played a prominent role in our lives.

In the months after Chris died, I started planning a concert in his honor to raise money for the American Brain Tumor Association (ABTA). Choir members were truly devastated by his death and welcomed the chance to perform for him one last time. And I wanted a way to memorialize Chris near the one-year anniversary of his passing.

I spent countless hours organizing the Chris Diez Memorial Concert. I planned everything from the music we performed, which included songs from our wedding and some from the funeral, to publicity and ticket sales. His friends, the current choir director and an army of volunteers helped bring my vision to life. And on January 10, 2010, 600 people packed the church to share in a beautiful musical tribute. I welcomed the audience and also sang some solos throughout the concert. Just over $9,000 was raised for the ABTA. The afternoon was a remarkable success.

People conveyed their surprise to me afterwards that I was able to talk in front of 600 people let alone sing in front of them. They just could not grasp how a recent widow could put together such a large-scale event and grieve at the same time. But what they didn’t realize was that by doing, I was grieving. They weren’t mutually exclusive activities.

Over the past year, I have learned that grief comes in all shapes and sizes. And for me, doing something tangible--pouring my blood, sweat and tears into this concert--was a healing step in the grief process. The concert was not just about Chris or the American Brain Tumor Association. It was also about me and my journey through grief.

So, in the end, I guess that music was my refuge as well.


  1. You are amazing, Wendy, and I hope that your journey, awful as it has been and will continue to be, helps other young widows. I know it will. You are an inspiration to many already, I am sure, and the concert for Chris and the foundation....and for you....will live on. I am so happy and proud to call you my friend. Your strength is an inspiration to me, to your children, to your family, to many. Blessings upon you.

  2. Your post was joyous to read. It helps to remember good times, especially things that brought you together. And then incorporating that into your grief, well, it only helps to connect the circle of life.

    My spouse, Michael, also died from a brain tumor. I appreciate the effort you shared in putting this tribute to your husband together. I'm sure he appreciates it as well.

    I also write a blog, and it is what saves me. People often ask how I am able to write each day, and work full time. I just say it is what keeps me going. Without expression, our grief will overwhelm us. It does so often anyway.

    Thanks for sharing.


  3. It sounds like a wonderful event, Wendy. And it's nice to hear that it was healing for you as well.

    Just as with Dan, my husband also died of a brain tumour. I would have more to say but my 4yr old and 2yr old are trying to 'help' me type and I should go - but my thoughts are with you as you just passed the one year mark of Chris' death.