On Road Trips, Memorials, Clarinets, and Life

I am bone- weary tired from driving much of the day, but wanted to get some thoughts down while things were still fresh in my mind. I’m in Knoxville, Tennessee, finally tucked into my hotel bed after leaving Birmingham before 8am with my best friend and Amicitia Duo partner, Diane. We’re here to attend the International Clarinet Association’s ClarinetFest at the University of Tennessee after a couple of days of Board meetings for me. The trip isn’t just for work, though- we made a very special stop on the way.

Diane and I have been friends for over thirty years; we’ve seen the gamut that life has to offer- truly the good, the bad, and the ugly. All through it we’ve held on tight, helping each other navigate life through tears and laughter, and lots of love. The past year has been horrendous for Diane in every way possible, including the loss of her sweet mother. There were other awful things happening on top of the terrible pain of grief, and Diane was never able to give her mother a memorial service.

When I mentioned that I’d love to take the time on our drive to Knoxville to show her the special waterfall on the upper Nantahala River where Dan and I were married and where I released my mother’s ashes, she asked about the possibility of releasing her mother’s ashes there, too, which I thought was a beautiful idea. There is something magical about Knottyhead Falls; I feel an incredibly strong connection with the Nantahala River and plan to live there someday. It is the one place in the world where I truly feel at peace.

My heart has ached for my best friend, and I’ve felt so helpless as she’s faced some of the worst life has to offer. I knew that having our own ceremony to honor her mother would bring her some much-needed peace, just as it did for me after I lost my mother. She brought some ashes from both of her parents, slowly releasing them into the falls as we sat side by side on the ancient rock formation. We listened to our recording of ‘Play Pretty’ from the ‘Amicitia Suite’, written for us by the wonderful composer Scott McAllister. ‘Play Pretty’ is the movement dedicated to Diane’s mother, inspired by the words she said to Diane before every performance. I read a poem…I felt Mom Cawein with us as the swirling waters carried she and Dad Cawein down the river. Diane was racked with sobs, emotion that had needed a release for a long time.

Here it is now a few days later and we are back in our professional world, preparing to perform a recital tomorrow afternoon, seeing clarinet colleagues from all over the globe, being inspired by the best of the best. This time is healing for Diane, too, getting back to normal routines, back to life. How grateful I am to be on this journey with her, no matter what comes our way. Friendship is one of life’s greatest gifts, no doubt about it.


14 thoughts on “On Road Trips, Memorials, Clarinets, and Life

  1. You two are a gift to each other, for sure. Hoping Diane finds peace in her life, and you too, Denise. You’re both such special people.

  2. It is a blessing to me to see the gift your friendship brings to both of you. I will be making an even greater effort to keep in touch with my friends. The closure for Diane is a beautiful gift that you were able to offer. Is there a recording for purchase of the ‘Amicitia Suite’?

  3. You’re inspiring me to be a constant friend to a dear coworker of mine who’s going through a time of extreme challenge. Thank you for sharing this!

  4. That is an absolutely beautiful thing you two did. I’m so happy you have each other. Your friendship and loyalty to each other is a blessing to all who know you. ❤️

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