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She was the very essence of beauty and grace.

“You may get a call,” she’d say before telling me about her most recent encounter with a prospective student.

“Diane,” I’d remind her. “Most people don’t love the piano like we do.”

“Oh, no,” she’d insist. “We had a very long talk and she definitely seems interested.”

At open houses, casual stoppers-by were advised that if they needed a piano teacher, she knew just the one. At weekly manicures, Diane could explain to whoever might be one chair over that her nails needed to be trim because she took piano lessons. Did they perhaps have an interest in this too? Grocery store encounters offered opportunities to spread the piano word.

Interior design was another of her many talents.

“Don’t keep the door here,” she said, peering over. “You need to put in French doors for the light.”

Yes, of course. I was converting my screen porch into a second piano room, and what she advised seemed so obvious, in hindsight.

“Keep the hallway,” she immediately responded, when I asked about converting it into a sheet music storage room. “Don’t close it in. People would have to walk through the studio to get to the bathroom. That won’t work.”

Enough said. I always did as she suggested.

Conversations about changes to my home over the years are too numerous to recall. But, suffice it to say, I knew where to turn with any question that might pop up.

There once was a call right at her lesson time. It was Diane, calling from the road. “Meet me in the driveway,” she said.

But, someone else had parked a big white truck in the driveway– one with gigantic tires, or maybe it was extra wheels, or – I don’t know, maybe it was just extra truck. It was enormous, that much I do recall. I opened the door to see what this was all about. Before I even got down the steps, Diane began her descent from this massive vehicle, as if from a jet, onto the landing of my driveway.

“This will be perfect in your living room!” she called out, removing her sunglasses to get ready for the hoist. “I’ll climb up and you can help me get it down,” she yelled. She began unloading a French country square coffee table. I didn’t even question her. Yes, of course, I needed this table to fill up my living room. We managed to wrangle it out of the back of the truck and into the house. Then she smoothed her slacks and sweater and we had her lesson.

“Warren’s away hunting this week,” she’d grin. “I’ll have lots of practice time. Load me up.”

My favorite scarf is the gray one she knitted for me a few years back, which hangs with the white cashmere scarf she brought this Christmas, still new with tags. Thick cream-colored knitted socks that seem too special to wear other than on holidays are folded in a drawer. Gloves are tucked in closet pockets. Artwork with musical themes hangs in various rooms around my house. Always thoughtful, she had dropped off a gift for my three-year-old grandson only two weeks before she went to hospice.

I went to see her right away, and she explained with difficulty how things had abruptly taken a turn for the worse.

“I had planned to come to the piano party,” she told me. Our piano party was only two weeks away.

The term was Broadway-themed, and Diane had started out with the song New York, New York. I was surprised that she’d chosen this. It seemed so out of character for her sweet, gentle demeanor. I figured this was a healthy choice for her, something bold and different. But, her personality kept sneaking in. If it’s possible to play New York, New York in Romantic style, she certainly achieved it.

“Diane, I’m thinking we might want to choose a different song for you,” I suggested a few weeks into her practice. “Everyone knows this song well, and if you play it slow and soft, it won’t sound right.

“You’re probably right,” she said.

We were on a FaceTime lesson, but we discussed various other options before Diane settled on People by Jule Styne, made famous of course by Barbara Streisand. Ah, yes, this was the perfect song for Diane. In no time at all, she was playing with a tender touch, as beautifully as anyone could.

Now, in her bed at hospice, I asked, “Diane, did you make your recording for the Gallery? I know you can’t come to the party, but we could put your song in the Gallery.”

“Yes,” she told me. “It’s in my phone. I'll look for it.”

“Do you want me to help?” I knew she was exhausted.

“Oh, no, I can do it,” she insisted. She was intent on finding the recording, knowing it was in there, somewhere. She must have flipped through her phone for at least ten minutes.

“I must have deleted it,” she finally said, looking up at me. We both laughed out loud, even in the midst of all the sadness. She knew I always remind students not to erase the draft recordings.

“It’s ok, Diane. Maybe it’s on your iPad. We’ll figure it out. I think you should rest now,” I said.

Sharing tears and tissues, we talked a while longer, both of us knowing it would be our last chance to do so.

On the way home, I called Catherine, Diane's dear friend and business partner. “I need you to play for Diane at the party– and to record her piece. That way she can be with us.” And so she mustered the strength to do this, with a loving heart, and lots of tears.

Diane had chosen the song that truly reflected her spirit of love and generosity, a perfect final gift for us all.



People who need people,

Are the luckiest people in the world

We're children, needing other children

And yet letting a grown-up pride

Hide all the need inside

Acting more like children than children

Lovers are very special people

They're the luckiest people in the world

With one person, one very special person

A feeling deep in your soul

Says you were half now you're whole

No more hunger and thirst

But first be a person who needs people.

People who need people

Are the luckiest people in the world

With one person one very special person

No more hunger and thirst

But first be a person who needs people

People who need people

Are the luckiest people in the world

Jules Styne

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Phyllis O'Neill
Phyllis O'Neill
Jul 11, 2023

I didn’t have the pleasure of knowing Diane, but after reading this I wish I had. Such a beautiful and lovely testament - her beauty and kindness came shining through your words, Melissa. And it brought tears to my eyes. How lucky you all were to have known her!


What a beautiful story! She’s now your Guardian Angel….and will forever be watching over you.❤️❤️

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