In high school I was part of a regional youth symphony. Every year we participated in a music festival at Abravanel Hall, home of the Utah Symphony. It was one of my favorite performances of the year because watching the Utah Symphony perform as a child was the inspiration of my dream to become a musician. One year we performed Jean Sibelius’s Finlandia in its entirety. The entire piece is beautiful but the most well known is the hymn part which has been adapted to be played on its own and is one of Finland’s most important National songs. I was excited to play this piece because I am 1/4 Finnish and my Finnish grandmother was there that day to hear me play. I proudly played out the part of the flute melody that most people know as the hymn “Be Still My Soul.”
My Finnish Grandmother was always encouraging of my talent as a flutist. She passed away a little over a week ago. Shortly after I got the call that my grandmother was not likely to live much longer I remembered a conversation I had with her a few months previous. I had played my flute at my brother’s missionary farewell and she and my other grandmother were joking about me playing my flute at their funerals. My Finnish grandmother got fairly serious (which is unusual because she loved to joke) and told me she wanted me to play the flute at her funeral and she even knew what she wanted me to play, Finlandia. As soon as I remembered this I got online and searched and searched for the perfect arrangement.
A few days later as my family got together to plan my grandmother’s funeral I found out that she had specifically written in her plans that I was to play Finlandia at her funeral. I was honored. As I played at her funeral service I was overcome with emotion. I was saddened that I won’t see her again in this life, comforted by the knowledge that I will see her again, slightly frightened that the high A I was going to play would be egregiously out of tune, pleased that I could honor my grandmother’s wishes, and proud to be 1/4 Finnish.