When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it (Mt 13:46).
As I was growing up, if you had asked me what was the “pearl of great price” in my life, I would have answered right away—my piano. I had begun piano lessons in second grade and couldn’t learn fast enough. My first piano had been an old-fashioned upright, which had been converted from its former life as a player piano. Its tone was tinny, and three of its notes didn’t sound at all. Still, I was grateful. In the eighth grade, however, I received a beautiful spinet with the most melodic tone of any piano I had ever heard.
I took lessons all through high school and even while in college. I accompanied the high school’s glee club and played for another church’s youth group when they put on musicals. I played tambourine and sang with a folk group during the sixties, in the days of hootenannies. So it would be safe to say that music was a big part of my life.
Once I married, we moved from New England to Indiana and left my piano with my parents. Although I missed it, I was finishing up college, working, and then had a baby while my husband was in law school, so there would not have been much time for playing. When we moved back to New England, however, my piano moved in with us, and I was able to give lessons. Music was part of my life again.
Music was one of the few positives in my life once we returned East. The apartment that was supposed to be waiting for us—procured by the law offices my husband was set to work for—was not yet finished and was thought to be at least two months from completion. We had to scramble to find a place to live, and we found a summer place at the entrance to Cape Cod. Moving in by ourselves, my husband ended up with blood poisoning. By the end of the summer, we had rats coming up from the dirt cellar, after which I suffered a miscarriage. Once recovered, we moved to my husband’s hometown—a move which entailed my husband and a friend pushing, pulling, and carrying my piano up to our third-floor tenement. My husband continued nightly bar review classes in Boston, and my twenty-two-year-old brother-in-law moved out of a group home (where he wouldn’t take his meds) and into my home. My son was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia. He stayed for seven days in an oxygen tent. I prayed a lot.
While we had been in Indiana, I had joined a charismatic, ecumenical community, which had many Catholics. Russ and I had become close friends with many of the members, and we grew to appreciate South Bend, where we were living. And now, I wanted to go back. I knew it offered the possibility of a rich, full life with faith-filled friends. After another series of misfortunes and much prayer, we both decided that we would return to live in the Midwest. The difficulty was in having enough money to make the trip. We would have to rent a truck, pay for gas, and find a place to live in South Bend.
We had only one way to raise the money—we would have to sell all we had of any consequence, which was my piano. And so, we did.
And that’s how I learned that I had found a more exquisite pearl of great price—a life filled with a group of people who tried to reflect the gospels in all that they did—a people who were living in the kingdom here on earth. These were people of wisdom from whom I could learn how to be a daughter of the king—to be a wife and mother in the way God would want. Now, fifty years later, I am beyond grateful for such a treasure. To live in God’s kingdom is worth any price.