Thanks for Being Here

Thanks for Being Here

From Chicken Soup for the Canadian Soul

Thanks for Being Here

We are each of us angels with one wing, and can only fly embracing one another.

Luciano de Crescenzo

I had a bit of a fairy-tale upbringing, especially with regards to my music. My parents both came from very musical families. Mom taught me to step dance when I was five, and I started fiddling at age nine when a granduncle by the name of Charlie MacMaster sent me a fiddle from Boston. He said if I wanted to play it, I could keep it. It was a three-quarter size fiddle, which I had never tried before. Dad had lots of full-size fiddles in the house, but they were so big I couldn’t stick them under my chin. So this was a tinier fiddle and it fit me perfectly.

The Cape Breton community that I grew up in was very into traditional music, and I’d already been in a few concerts step dancing. So I’d had a good introduction to the stage by the time I played my first concert at age ten. Then I decided that I should take some lessons, so for the next three years I worked with my teacher, Stan Chapman.

It’s very easy to get gigs when you’re a fiddler in Cape Breton, because no matter how long you’ve been playing, news travels fast, and all the little communities rely on local talent. I loved playing, and very soon I was performing at a lot of local concerts!

Now, of course, I travel everywhere, and my touring schedule is very full. In 1999, along with Amy Sky, I wrote a song called “In My Hands,” which was a tribute to my fiddle and the great musical heritage it brings with it. For the next year I performed that song at all my concerts.

After a show, I usually sign autographs and CDs. People will often come up and say, “I really enjoyed your show, it was just tremendous,” and their words make me feel so good.

I’ve also received many beautiful cards and letters from people, saying things like, “I was having a bad day and your music really picked me up,” or simply, “You really brought a lot of joy to my heart.” Comments like that not only make me feel good, they make me feel like I’m serving a purpose. And when I read them, I don’t take it to heart as me bringing the joy, I take it as coming from the gift that God gave me. I feel so privileged to be able to deliver that to people.

A few months ago, a very special letter arrived that really touched me. It was a from a man named William who wrote:

Dear Natalie:

Every morning when I wake up, I thank God for you because you changed my life. In June, I was very depressed because I had lost a job. One night, I began to think about the best way to kill myself. I said to myself, “My wife will have to make the trip to Canada by herself.” Immediately I realized if I was dead, she would not go by herself. So then I said, “I’ll wait until we get back from Canada.”

We had been planning to attend the tall ships event in Halifax, and when I saw your name on the program, I knew for sure I had to go. I had bought one of your CDs when we were in Canada the year before, but I had no idea how popular you are.

We got to the concert about an hour and a half early, but already there were no chairs left.

While we stood there waiting, I thought about my life. I have been fighting depression for a long time. When my son was very ill about ten years ago, I made a vow to stick around until he was grown. Last year he got married and moved out. Before he got sick, I had played the flute. But for ten years there had been no music in my heart, and I had not played my flute for a very long time.

When you did “In My Hands” I heard a voice say, “Go home and play.” I realized then I had an instrument at home that belonged in my hands, every day.

The day after we got home I found a flute teacher and started lessons that week. I keep your picture on my music stand. You had signed it for me, “Thanks for being here.” Of course, you were referring to the concert.

Now, “Thanks for being here” is my morning prayer every day. I get up at 4:00 A.M. in order to find practice time before I go to work. I have already mastered a Bach sonata, and have started on a Mozart one.

It was your music that taught my heart to sing again, and taught my feet to dance again. You are my angel who gave me the message from God that delivered me from death to life.

So every morning, for the rest of my life, I will wake up and thank God for you, and for the fact that I am still here on this earth.

With deepest affection,
William

When I received William’s letter and read that he saw me as an angel who gave him a message from God, I was moved to tears. To me it’s just incredible the contact we can have with other people without even knowing. For me, my schedule’s crazy, and I’m going left, right and centre all the time, and sometimes I’m so busy that I don’t slow down long enough to think about things. And William’s letter really made me think for a moment about the impact that every one of us can have on each other as human beings.

And then there’s the effect that he had on me. He spoke about how grateful he is for my presence in his life through my music. But with his heartfelt letter, he’s given me something equally important. Which is just knowing that as I go about my life, doing the work that I love, that I can help make a difference.

Natalie MacMaster
Troy, Cape Breton Island,
Nova Scotia

You are currently enjoying a preview of this book.

Sign up here to get a Chicken Soup for the Soul story emailed to you every day for free!

Please note: Our premium story access has been discontinued (see more info).

view counter

More stories from our partners