About the Author
Dulcie May Stone, born
Dulcie May White in Melbourne 1924, has won
acclaim as an author, educator and campaigner for people with disabilities. She
has been awarded an MBE for service to the handicapped (1981), was selected
International Woman of the Year in 1996/97, was included in the Outstanding
People of the Twentieth Century Selection and, with her late husband, received
an Apostolic Blessing in 1989.
‘As the autumn leaves fall and wither, so does my
Ludwig van Beethoven – Excerpt from a
letter to his brother, during the period when he was seriously handicapped by
I started learning to play the piano when I was
seven. Weekends and after school I practised scales and arpeggios while the
other children played in the street. Most days they stood outside our front
fence and jeered. Although I was often lonely, I had no choice. My mother
Eight years later I was practising scales and
arpeggios because I loved playing the piano. Although Beethoven sonatas were my
favourites, every time I attempted a runs of complex chords my arms went into
painful paralysing spasms. Heartbroken, I was forced to abandon any ideas of a
career in music.
After leaving school my life experiences were:
student teacher; assistant kindergarten supervisor; laboratory assistant
entangled in World War Two espionage; worker in a variety of mundane jobs;
mother of three children; and frequent hospital patient with unhappy outcomes.
When I was thirty-five, my true vocation found me.
After offering to be a volunteer at the Mildura Day Training Centre for Retarded
Children and Adults, I was appointed to the salaried position of Centre
Supervisor. As a result, my experience broadened to include: special education;
adult education; psychology; psychiatry; honorary probation officer;
board-of-management member on various committees; occasional concert singer and
pianist; television appearances.
When I was fifty-eight, a lucky chance took me to
see a sports chiropractor who diagnosed a spinal cord problem. After treatment,
I resumed piano lessons and finally mastered the difficult Beethoven sonatas
which had changed the direction of my teenage life. Now in my nineties, I
practise the piano every day.
‘TO MUSIC’ is the first story in this anthology of
fictional stories, poems, memoirs and essays. Some have changed lives, some have
changed minds, and others reveal historically significant attitudes. All have
challenged my ability to effectively communicate.
Note: Deepest apologies for use of the outdated word
Read a sample:
She knew that when the music stopped, he would die.
She knew because he’d told her.
‘Six months. A year at most.’ The surgeon had been
blunt. ‘I’m sorry.’
They’d crept back to the car, into the house, into
‘You mustn’t cry.’ He’d held her. Long long hours
he’d held her.
In the morning, the next morning, he’d told her, ‘You
must never stop playing your piano. I couldn’t tolerate that. Never. No matter
how bad I get – don’t stop playing.’
How could she play?
‘Don’t argue,’ he’d insisted. ‘It will keep me going.
Your music is my life.’
Her music. Her music had brought them together. She’d
been playing at the Concert Hall. The audience, sophisticated and mature, had
appreciated the subtleties of her exquisite Chopin.
He’d been waiting at the dressing room door. ‘I’m
It had meant nothing.
He’d laughed, deep and warm and resonant. The magic
of Beethoven, the wit of Mozart. Her world had turned upside down.
‘I’m sorry.’ She’d held the door open. ‘I really do
not know who Jonathon Morris is.’
‘I write.’ Off-hand. Casual. Yet proud. Oh so proud.
‘I’m sorry,’ she’d repeated, foolishly embarrassed.
‘I have little time to read.’
‘Why should you? You are music.’
She’d blushed. Thirty-one years old, worldly wise.
And she’d blushed.
‘What about Beethoven?’ He’d escorted her from the
room, through the foyer, out into the midnight street. ‘Do you play Beethoven?’
They’d married within the year. There were to be no
‘You must never give up your music,’ he’d insisted.
‘Nothing should stop you playing.’
‘Not even your child?’
‘Your music is my child.’
The years had flown. Loving and sharing. His writing,
her music. Both successful, each lauded in their separate discipline. A balance
Until the first shallow cough rang its knell in her
terrified heart. She knew the sound. Too well she knew it.
He’d laughed. He’d laughed his beautiful
heart-breaking laugh. ‘Don’t be such a fusspot. Your father had lung cancer. I
have smoker’s cough.’
Same thing. Same thing.
The surgeon had been wrong.
He was alive and well and happy and writing.
This morning, as every morning of almost her entire
life, she practised: scales, arpeggios, exercises, and Beethoven. For him she
In his chair at the desk by the south window, he set
down his pen, leaned back, closed his eyes. Listened.
The surgeon had not been wrong.
He was alive, confined to bed.
This morning, as every morning, the nurses came,
She played Beethoven. The scales and the arpeggios
and the exercises could wait. Would wait.
In his bed in the arch of the south window where his
desk had been he closed his eyes. He listened.
The nurses begged. ‘You have to persuade him to go to
‘It’s no use…’
‘But he should be in hospital!’
‘It’s no use…’
On his bed by the south window where his desk had
been, the covers were almost flat. On the pillow, sunken eyes, fever-brilliant,
lit his parchment face.
She played Beethoven. Every morning, as every morning
of almost her entire life, she played piano.
‘You are music,’ his thin dry lips whispered. ‘You
must always play.’
‘You can’t go on like this.’ The nurses, the doctors,
her friends, their families. ‘You’re worn out.’
‘Of course I’m worn out!’
‘You must give up your concerts,’ they insisted. ‘You
can’t keep going.’
‘It’s all we have left. He’ll know if I miss one.’
A year and one week and two days.
‘Good morning, Jon.’ She kissed his fleshless
His fetid breath, dying, whispered on her cheek.
‘Sssh…’ she cautioned. ‘Don’t try to talk.’
He motioned a single, fleshless, finger.
She moved to habitual obedience. ‘I’ll play.’
She pulled out the piano stool, placed her strong
virtuoso’s hands on the lifeless keys. How I hate Beethoven.
Her fingers rebelled.
From the bed, a sigh.
Play for him. I must play for him.
The fingers could not move, would not.
She turned from the piano.
The flat sheet stirred, faintest of faint breath of
expectation. The music, merciless, would yet again cheat Death.
‘I’m sorry.’ She closed the lid of the piano.
The dead piano, the merciful funeral – and pain-free
days. Nothing assuaged guilt. She should not have denied him. Death had won,
The pain-freed bed remained by the south window. The
piano remained silent.
‘You have to take up your own life again.’ Friends
and families consoled. ‘He’d have wanted that.’
The dark sky without light, the shadowed room without
If only I’d kept playing. She
stood by the piano.
I can’t. She rested her head on
the polished timber.
The midnight breeze whispered on her cheek.
‘Jonathon!’ Sweet imagination.
The breeze grew stronger.
She raised the lid of the piano. I’m sorry.
I should have kept playing. Forgive me…
‘Sssh…’ The breeze, sweet as music, free as death,
She sat on the piano stool and her strong virtuoso’s
hands stirred the lifeless keys and she practised scales and arpeggios and
She played Chopin.
And the breeze was silent.