In 2005, I was beginning my fifth year of living with ALS, and despite several trips to Germany for alternative medical treatment, nothing seemed to be working to deter the slow but unrelenting progress of the disease. Among the most difficult things I had to deal with that year was to watch the toll that my physical deterioration was taking on my wife. Diane is the kind of person who is always available to listen to and console others about their problems, but rarely talks about her own. The depth of her consideration for others is one of many rare qualities that have caused her choir students to develop a deep respect, love and attachment year after year after year.
By the spring of 2005, the students had become painfully aware that something was wrong, but they weren’t quite sure how to reach out. One student took the initiative to express in writing what many of the choir members were feeling. In Diane’s own words, when describing it to others, “I received the most wonderful letter from a student who expressed concern, and said even though it was written by this one person, ‘ I am just another face in the choir, just another one of your many children.’ The letter went on to say, ‘You have been the object of strength to us this far, now let us return the favor. Let us help you…. Let us heal you.’” The letter continued with a quote from a song that Diane had been teaching that year, entitled, ”On the Morrow”. It said, “After all, ‘on the morrow, when the sun is at rise… no more sorrow in thy eyes- Trust in the morrow, and it shall come’”.
A few short weeks later, the students had collaborated with support from some of the choir parents, and school administration, to produce a benefit concert on our behalf, which they entitled SerenAide. They enrolled students, teachers and others from the community to perform an entertaining and heartwarming evening of music with only 3 weeks’ preparation. Several times during the evening, my family and I were deeply moved as student performers shot adoring glances toward their beloved teacher, seemingly in pursuit of some sign of approval. When a small ensemble of choir students gathered just a few feet in front of us to perform the final number, however, we were completely overwhelmed. Their selection and heartfelt rendition of “On the Morrow” simply brought us to our knees.
That evening in April of 2005 was amazing and magical. What is even more amazing is that the students have turned SerenAide into a tradition. On May 27th, we will enjoy our sixth annual SerenAide concert to raise money for the fight against Lou Gehrig’s disease. If you happen to be in the vicinity of J. P. Stevens High School in Edison, N.J. at 7 p.m. on that evening, we would love to have you join us. It is an evening you will not soon forget!