This post has been on my mind for more than a year. My son graduated from college in May, 2014. As a music major, he had a recital at the end of junior and senior year. Months of preparation went into them. For senior year, the recital was held about a month prior to graduation. I briefly shared it here. The senior parents host a simple reception for family, friends, and faculty. We ended up having a fairly large group coming in from out of town, so we hosted a dinner in one of the practice rooms. It was a wonderful gathering to celebrate the music that was made as the result of rigorous study and practice.
There were even a few surprises, such as former piano teachers! Linda made the trip with her husband. She taught all my kids in their grade school and high school years.
Sharon was Joey’s Kindermusik teacher and first piano teacher until she moved. What a joy it was to have these wonderful women present!
An example of Joey’s work includes this original song, “Attempting to Persist.” I love this piece and this was him performing at his recital.
Joey’s college piano teacher, Mark Flugge.
When the excitement of the recital wore off, we anticipated our first college graduation! We survived the ceremony which had wonderful speeches but I found the calling of 600 names to be interminable. After the ceremony, the graduates spilled out onto the commons and the joy was palpable!
Some of our family members headed home, and we spent the evening with our son. We have enjoyed some wonderful restaurants in the Columbus area. That evening, we went to Hyde Park, Upper Arlington, the only Hyde Park with music. The food at Hyde Park is phenomenal and one of the regular Friday night groups was Mark’s trio. A couple other graduates and their families were there, including one of Mark’s other piano students. He let both Joey and the other student sit in with the trio. The room was electric!
I captured a blurry photo of Mark and Joey. They look so happy.
A video from that evening with a few words Joey shared about Mark. (Obviously, I did not have mastery of my camera as you will see by the video quality.)
Joey had a little over a week to move out and prepare for an extended gig on Mackinac Island. He made it home and we were shopping for some essentials when we got word that Mark had died. His Facebook page, updated by his wife, stated:
Following a valiant 22-month struggle, Mark Flugge succumbed to major undiagnosed hearing issues and depression early Sunday morning, May 11. He expressed the hope that his music will live on, and heartfelt love to all of his many friends, family, students, and colleagues.”
I thought Mark’s wife worded this beautifully. Suicide leaves us with so many unanswered questions. In Mark’s case, he had been suffering from hearing problems for a while. He had been seeking treatment but rarely found relief from the pain. There was a period of time he could not play or even teach. Joey had shared some of Mark’s struggles with us and we were aware of the difficulties he faced as well as the accompanying depression. The minister at his beautiful memorial service stated that, “depression kills.” And if we felt anger, we should be angry at the depression. I clung to these words.
Joey’s grief was immense. Our grief was immense. The collective grief was immense. Joey had auditioned at many schools but chose to study under Mark. Mark was a quiet, wonderful man. I respected his ability to teach and grow Joey with his quiet demeanor and yet demanding standards. Even though we only met Mark a half dozen times in the four years of college, we felt like we knew him. His name was a constant around the dinner table. At some point during these years, Joey discovered Bill Evans and he, too, became a dinnertime topic. The beauty of having a music student is that you can enjoy the progress they make when they come home from breaks. It was amazing to see my son grow musically and, also, in developing critical thinking skills that a liberal arts education provides. We saw the special bond our son had with Mark. He was like a second father to Joey.
Our son only had one day before leaving for Mackinac, so we encouraged him to go back to Columbus to be with his friends. I felt that was important, especially before heading so far away from us.
I attended the memorial service since Joey was unable to do so. It was a beautiful service and I was glad to meet members of Mark’s family. Later, his wife, Lisa, planned a Memorial Concert and invited Joey and others to play. It was a beautiful tribute to this much-loved musician.
Here is “Waltz for Mark”, which Joey composed during his Junior year, when Mark was struggling.
After Mark died, I was amazed by Lisa’s strength. She channeled her energy into memorializing and remembering Mark and sharing his amazing music. I would call her a “do-er”. Within a year, she put together an amazing CD collection. The CD is available for purchase from Mark’s website with proceeds going to the non-profit Mark Flugge Memorial Fund.
During one of Joey’s visits, Lisa offered for Joey to pick out a tie from Mark’s collection. I decided that I would reach out to Lisa to see if there was a way I could offer comfort with my memory quilts. I normally wouldn’t reach out to someone during their time of grief, but I sensed that she might soon be going through his clothes. We began an email exchange and I must say that she helped me heal during this difficult time. Her words were always so meaningful and eloquent. It seemed that Mark always had the same striped shirt on every time we visited. I thought a memory pillow would be a nice idea. Or, I suggested a T Shirt quilt if he had a number of those. Lisa sent a large bin of clothes and gave me the freedom to create.
It took me a long time to even look in that bin. Part of the reason was that I was busy. But I was also worried that I couldn’t do justice with Mark’s clothes. When I did finally look in the bin, I realized Mark had many more than one shirt. There were 19! There were a few T shirts and a number of plain, knit shirts. I continued to think about ways to use his shirts. I came across this quilt on Pinterest.
It completely captivated me. I loved the use of various plaid fabrics for the blocks and sashing and thought it would be a good design for using button down shirts. It is a pattern called “Trading Patches” . I adjusted the sizing to account for the throw size that I wanted to create and the number of shirts available. The McCall’s pattern uses much smaller blocks.
I cut squares from the shirts that were 12.5″ These were cut in half along the diagonal to form triangles. I also cut strips 1.5″ x 17″ long. I simply cut through the batch of shirts, using the main body of the shirts as well as sleeves. I did not include the button front but preserved a square from the front of many of the shirts to use, later, for pillows. To create one block, I sewed two contrasting triangles to the thin strip. This square was then trimmed to 11.75″. The blocks were arranged in a 4 x 6 grid. To add to the size, I added a 3.5″ inside border and 5″ external border.
As always, once I got started cutting, the design and sewing process moved along.
I wanted to make two blankets: one for Lisa and one for Mark’s daughter. I asked if they had any design preferences and the only request was from Mark’s daughter, who wanted bright colors. That was a challenge since most of Mark’s shirts were dark, in true jazz-musician style. I decided to use a light blue for the inner border and for all of the sashing strips. It lightens the blanket just a bit. I also added a floral border which seemed to capture the colors of the shirts.
The blanket is backed with a fuzzy fleece in the same blue tone as the sashing fabric.
It is my hope that Mark’s daughter will wrap herself up in this cozy blanket and be wrapped in love and memories.
For Lisa, I used a black sweatshirt fleece backing. I used a black fabric with a small print as the inner border and then created a piano key border for the outer edge. I thought the piano key border was appropriate and love the effect.
I was able to give the blankets to their grateful recipients after the 2nd Annual Mark Flugge Memorial Concert. I am thankful that they allowed me to create these special blankets and I feel selfish in that it was part of my healing, as well.
This year, Joey played one of Mark’s compositions, Mi Zai (Not Yet), that is simply beautiful.
I figured that the T Shirts might be special for Lisa, so I turned those into pillows using my simple method of T Shirt on one side and button down on the other.
Since I had so many shirt fronts and plain, knit shirts available, I made six additional pillow covers so that they could be shared with family.
I asked Lisa if I could use some of the fabric scraps to make a special pillow for Joey. I combined a T Shirt with a piano keyboard with the black keys made out of shirt scraps. I found the pattern on Craftsy.
Over the past year, many times Joey would start a sentence with, “Mark would say…..” I think that Mark continues to teach Joey. Mark will remain a part of Joey’s life in many ways but, especially, in his music.
If you would like to learn more about Mark Flugge and the Foundation, please stop by the website. Lisa sent me several CDs to share and I would like to give one away. It is a two-CD set of jazz originals and standards and it is wonderful. Just leave a comment and I will randomly select someone to send it to.
Chances are, you or someone you love has been touched by brain diseases. I have read a number of good books and shared a few of them here. I recently read “Struck by Living”, by Julie Hersh, that tells the story of her struggle with depression and suicide. Please feel free to share any resources you may have in the comments.
We miss you Mark, but are forever grateful for the gift of your music, especially your gift to our son.