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Giving the gift we came to give

We come into the world with a unique gift to give. And how well Vincent C. LaGuardia Jr., 68-year-old conductor of the Arapahoe Philharmonic Orchestra in Denver, Colorado, gave his gift.

JoAnn and I live in Arapahoe County, and have often been to concerts put on by the Philharmonic. How much we have enjoyed the very special talents and passion of Vincent LaGuardia. We were not present, however, last Friday when LaGuardia died suddenly of a heart attack while conducting the first piece of the evening.

As the Denver Post reported, Tracy, LaGuardia’s wife, lead violinist in the orchestra, looked up just as her 68-year-old husband leaned forward and collapsed on the stage at Mission Hills Church in Littleton. Doctors in the audience were unable to revive him.

It was not the first heart attack LaGuardia had suffered. In 1997, he had a heart attack while he was leading a youth orchestra. When Tracy rushed to her husband's side he looked at her and said, with a peaceful look on his face, "I think this might be it. I love you."

The surgeon’s warning

LaGuardia survived that particular event. But his heart surgeon told him that the next time he had a heart attack, he would likely be dead before he hit the floor. Thereafter, the Post reported, "Tracy LaGuardia greeted each concert with trepidation."

That was particularly the case this past week, when both she and her husband had the flu. LaGuardia was in pain during the final rehearsal before Friday's concert, but when Tracy told him he didn't have to perform he said, "I haven't missed a concert in 45 years and I'm not going to start now."

A tall, commanding presence

I can see LaGuardia in my mind’s eye right now. I see his tall, commanding presence as he led his orchestra, his devotion to his life's purpose radiating through every gesture and glance, and I am so thankful for the beautiful music that he and his wife and his orchestra created together.

I am so thankful for the courage and persistence this brave man embodied. But most of all, I am thankful that his unconquerable spirit is untouched and unharmed by the drama surrounding his death -- just as it was untouched and unchanged by the joy that surely greeted his birth.

So is it for you and me and each one of us.

I send love and greetings to all. As always, I'd love to share any input you may have on the above. If you enjoyed this post, please pass it on to a friend.

PS: Instead of a funeral, Tracy LaGuardia planned to organize a concert featuring some of her late husband's favorite music by Italian composer Ottorino Respighi.

Picture credit:  kcbimal

 

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Genevieve Ross March 12, 2012 at 4:18 pm

Hi Christopher,
I always enjoy your postings, and have considered commenting on others. But, I find myself at a crossroads and am diligently working on a new project which is engulfing all my time and energy. However, this story I could not go without sharing my point of view.

Five years ago, at the age of 46, my husband succumbed to a heart attack. He had his check up every year and always got a clean bill of health report. He visited the Emergency Dept. at our local hospital one month before he died and they assured him that he was fine. Rob too had been a commanding force in this life; not on a public stage, but certainly for the benefit of his family, friends, associates and complete strangers. The day before he died he told me he was the luckiest man on earth… and although it has been difficult to accept, I know that it was his time to go, to move on to another dimension… while still always being here with me.

Thank you for sharing the way you do,
Genevieve

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Christopher Foster March 13, 2012 at 12:16 pm

Dear Genevieve,

Thank you so much for your kind words and for sharing the touching story about your husband. What a lovely memory you have, how the day before he died he told you that he was the luckiest man on earth.

I admire so much the way you have handled this sad loss, Genevieve. I agree completely that your husband is with you still. I send you blessings and love and I feel privileged to share this extraordinary journey we call life with you.

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Christopher Dailey March 12, 2012 at 5:24 pm

I would think if one passes doing what he loved to do he is now in the light of First Cause, my love to his wife, but he has simply changed rooms because as a wise master once said; oh death where is thy sting, there is only life and all the rest is an illusion.

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Christopher Foster March 13, 2012 at 12:05 pm

Thank you Christopher. I do agree with your elegant words. Thank you for sharing, I’m happy to connect with you and send you every good wish.

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Elizabeth Nunn March 12, 2012 at 7:16 pm

The words “He did what he came to do” ring true here. Sometimes what we come to do is very clear, as with this man. And do I love seeing the single focused life! Others of us, like myself, simply take step after step, doing what is next and wind-up looking like a patchwork quilt.

Multiple patterns and forms of life are so unique. I appreciate and respect the paths that are straight and true for those living them, like this conductor. Music is what he came to do. And I enjoy hearing about journeys, like my own, that resemble mountain top switchbacks. The form of the journey doesn’t matter, it’s WHO is making the journey that does.

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Christopher Foster March 13, 2012 at 10:48 am

Thank you so much for these beautiful insights Elizabeth. I especially thank you for your affirmation that it’s not so much the form of our journey that counts, but who we are. It’s a real pleasure to be sharing life’s adventure with you. God bless and take care.

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Des March 13, 2012 at 8:16 am

I play in the Arapahoe Phil and watched this amazing man collapse during our concert last Friday night. First, The pic above is not Vince, not sure where you got the picture from but that is not Vince. May I recommend going to the Arapahoe-phil.org website to post the correct picture.

Second, no one will ever come close to the talents and passion for music that Vince has always had and instilled in every life he touched. I started playing under him in the Colorado Youth Symphony Orchestra when I was 12 years old. My parents made me play an instrument but Vince made me love it.

I’m sure the countless people whose lives have been blessed enough to have known Vince would say the same. He was a genius and expected nothing less than 110% from everyone which is what we gladly gave him in return. I could go on and on about this amazing man. This is a wonderful story about Vince. I have been fortunate enough to be part of his passion and love of music for the last 22 years. Please again, do replace the picture above with THE One and Only Vincent C LaGuardia.

The memorial concert is being planned and will be March 31st at 1:30. A mix of beautiful music that Vince has created with the AP. I’m sure he’ll be proud and watching from his beloved podium with his baton in hand.

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Christopher Foster March 13, 2012 at 10:32 am

Des,

Thank you so much for your most touching words. Having a member of the Arapahoe Philharmonic such as yourself share your great depth of appreciation and love for the man who taught you so much, and under whose baton you played for so long, is very moving, to put it mildly.

I did try to find a suitable picture of Mr.LaGuardia but I was not successful. I thought about it a bit more and decided that perhaps the most suitable approach is to go with a simple but inspiring picture that captures something of the essence of the message I seek to share in my post. I do hope you will feel reasonably pleased or satisfied with this approach. Incidentally I did have a line at the end of the original post mentioning that the conductor in the picture was a colleague of Mr. LaGuardia, but I realize it was kind of tucked away and easy to lose sight of.

My wife and I hope to attend many more concerts of the Arapahoe Philharomonic. But to be more specific, we look forward very much to attending the memorial concert on March 31. Thank you so much for including this information in your comment.

What instrument do you play? Maybe we’ll be able to see you giving your gift in the upcoming concert. My wife JoAnn played harp in her high school orchestra. I am genuinely happy to have made your acquaintance Des and wish you all the very best in the new cycle now to unfold. With blessings and love.

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Des March 14, 2012 at 12:39 am

My apologies about the pic. I play the cello and my sister Giga will be playing in Tracy’s chair for the memorial. Tonight we had a very emotional but much needed gathering of AP with Brian and Tracy. They seem to be very strong and handling all of this with such poise.

We rehearsed a few pieces in hopes to perfect every second that’s played for Vince and make him proud. 🙂 Tracy and Brian are planning on conducting a couple of these pieces at the memorial so it will be very special. The concert will be held at our usual venue Mission Hills at 1:30 March 31st.

Thank you to you and your wife for supporting the AP and I am so happy that you both were able to be a part of the amazing talent and Passion for creating beautiful music that Vince loved so much. Again, thank you so much for your heart felt words about Vince and blessings to you and yours as well 🙂

Hilary March 14, 2012 at 8:35 am

H Christopher – what a lovely conversation to read here – and how lovely to have the memorial to look forward to .. with thoughts – Hilary
Hilary recently posted..Oxford places …

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Christopher Foster March 14, 2012 at 6:21 pm

Hilary, what a dear lady you are. Thank you for your kind words and God bless.

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Evan Griffith March 14, 2012 at 3:18 pm

What a loving tribute you’ve given to this wonderful man, Christopher. And your ultimate take on his eternal being . . . was lyrical. As your first commenter above noted, it is knowing this eternal spirit goes on that gives those of us left behind the equanimity to go on ourselves.

Thanks again for what you do here —

Evan
Evan Griffith recently posted..The difference between pre-death, near-death, and post-death experiences

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Christopher Foster March 14, 2012 at 6:05 pm

Evan, thank you. It’s always so good to hear from you. Finding kindred spirits is one of the joys of being human, isn’t it. It’s a privilege that never loses its luster. Stay well friend.

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Durwin Foster March 14, 2012 at 3:21 pm

Hello Dad:

I appreciate the focus of your piece on what we might call the “unique self” with its “unique gifts”. Being and becoming our unique self is truly a great joy, as you have suggested here.

At the same time, I acknowledge the appropriateness of the grieving process for family, friends and colleagues in losing a leader in their lives. As a counsellor, I would want to support those affected by this loss in taking the time necessary, and accessing any resources that would be helpful in making sense of this significant change in their lives.
Durwin Foster recently posted..Think You Have Depression? Here’s What You What You Need to Know . . .

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Christopher Foster March 14, 2012 at 5:28 pm

Dear Durwin,

Thank you so much for your comment. You are sure giving your gift. I’m so proud of the work you are doing as a counsellor and the sensitive, but clear-eyed assistance you offer in this field.

Take care Durwin. I send blessings and love and wish you every success.

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Des March 17, 2012 at 6:57 pm

Hi Christopher, I would love to meet you and your wife at the memorial concert. You both are one of the reasons Vince loved doing what he did. “for the Love of Music” 🙂
Thank you again for these beautiful words about this wonderful man Maestro Vince LaGuardia.

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Christopher Foster March 17, 2012 at 7:46 pm

Des, thank you so much. JoAnn and I will be honored to meet you. Look forward to the concert so much and we will be with you in spirit during the performance as they say. Be well.

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Stewart March 18, 2012 at 4:55 pm

Christopher, a beautiful post. Just as Vincent gave his gift of conducting so well, I find that when we offer our gift in living, in a way we conduct too, consciously and subconsciously calling upon the gifts that others have given us through our past and even current connections with them and unifying those notes–occasionally signaling to this one or that one to take the lead–into a sweeping sound that beautifies and energizes our surround.

My former girlfriend, who’d moved to another state, recently passed on suddenly from the effects of alcoholism, among other things. At her memorial, I spoke of how her work as a psychotherapist helped improve the lives of her patients, and how that most likely had a ripple effect in the lives of their families and friends. So it is for us, I believe: giving our gifts so they may touch and nourish those around us and extend even further afield, as I find we’re part of a living energetic fabric at various levels between various ones of us and all of humankind.

I think it’s nicely synchronous how, in my most recent blog interview, I asked a man what gifts he thinks he offers others. And I admire the art of your writing where you say, “…his devotion to his life’s purpose radiating through every gesture and glance.”
Stewart recently posted..Interview With Ronald Polack: Your Bio-Energy Field, Healing, and Oneness

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Christopher Foster March 18, 2012 at 7:17 pm

Thank you for sharing these beautiful thoughts Stewart. And what a remarkable analogy, that we are each one of us playing a role of conductor in our lives. It really is something to think about. It provokes in me the question, ‘Am I offering my best in this moment, in this circumstance?’ The world is hungry, I think, for the music that is in our hearts waiting for us to give it expression in our lives.

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Christopher Foster March 14, 2012 at 6:19 pm

Des, I feel so privileged to have made this connection with you. Thank you so much for what you have shared in your comments, and the love for music and the orchestra and Vincent you have made so palpable.

JoAnn and I look forward so much to the memorial concert. Thank you for the gift each member of the AP brings. Blessings to each one of you and our love is with you.

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