January is the birth month of Jacqueline Du Pre, the dazzling English cellist who died of multiple sclerosis in 1987 at the age of 42. I am cheating by posting this on both of my blogs, but I like her to get as much exposure as possible.
Jackie was a genius and her playing is still revered today for its depth and creativity. This is all the more remarkable considering MS ended her ability to play when she was only 28 years old. She did, however, continue to teach and share her brilliance with many, despite the relentless progress of her disease.
This recording of Elgar is a treasure. Daniel Barenboim, who she married in 1967, is conducting. Especially for anyone who is used to how he looks now, he looks like a little boy in a borrowed, ill-fitting tux. As much as I admire his musical talent, I can never look at him without remembering he had two children with another woman while Jackie was still alive. Maybe I am being too judgmental, but honestly, what a dog.
A movie about Jackie and her sister was made in 1998. It generally is a silly, over-the-top melodrama. But there is one scene that I post every year, it is so true to my experience. For me, it captures exactly how it feels every time it hits home how much MS has stolen from my life. My career has been destroyed. My independence is gone. My relationships are all altered by this horrible disease. I cannot overstate the devastation of knowing each day brings me a little closer to total dependence. What I would give to have my old life back, to be able to run errands, get up and go to work every day, go for a walk after dinner! Even to be able to make dinner or clean the house or do laundry, all things that I took for granted and I am unable to do any longer.
I certainly never, ever thought I would develop something like MS. I vividly remember studying it in nursing school and thinking, “Phew, thank goodness I’ll never get MS!” Silly me. I already had it. And even after I was diagnosed, I thought, “Oh, it won’t affect me too much. I will have MS Light. Because I am not the type to get sick. That is for others.”
Who knew I would be one of the others?
Granted, perception is all. If I perceive I am limited, I am limited by my own definition. I do still enjoy many things, especially the company and support of my wonderful friends. But the reality of loss is still a painful fact.
So happy birthday, Jackie. Thank you for the gift of your music and the example of the life you led.
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