In Loving Memory of Malcolm Henderson

A ticket for the Kingston Chamber Festival gets you in the door but does not assign you a seat. I arrived only minutes before the concert was to start and had to keep moving down the aisle toward the stage before I saw an empty seat. But then close to the front, on the aisle were two seats. Doubting my good fortune to find such excellent seats so late, I asked the woman in the adjacent seat whether those seats were free. The people she had been expecting had not appeared. She said I could have the seats.

I read quickly through the evening’s program notes until the lights dimmed. Then I put my bag and newspaper on the seat next to me. As I did, I noticed a name plate on the right arm of my seat. “Malcolm” it said. I looked more closely: “In loving memory of Malcolm Henderson.” Carol’s dead son. My nephew. My right eye that always weeps first filled with a tear.

For much of the first movement of the Haydn string quartet, I ruminated on Malcolm and why the plaque was there and wiped the tears off my check. My parents supported the the festival in its early years. This plaque was part of their contribution.

Who would Malcolm have become had his fate not been a very quick life? Malcolm’s father plays the fiddle. Might Malcolm have been a musician? Would he be married? I could be sure that I would be seeing him this weekend at his younger sister’s wedding where he, his other sister and my children might be comparing notes from their own weddings or just enjoying hanging out together.

The Haydn piece was surprising in tempo, key and mode changes or so it seemed as I wandered in and out of paying attention.

When it was over, we clapped, coughed, moved around in our seats and then the Mozart piece began. Now the plaque on the left arm of my chair caught my attention. Even in the darkened hall, I could read the engraving: “Julie and Paul Douglas.”

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9 comments
  1. Ellie said:

    Very moving, made me shed a tear too. A bittersweet anecdote. Good to know you were nestled in among the family there…

  2. Mother and Dad were some of the few people who had the privilege of meeting Malcolm. Mother spent weeks with us–with him. He couldn’t have many visitors–infection risk. In my acres of regret is the sorry fact that my own sisters didn’t get to meet him, know him. He was getting better after the first surgery. We were on our way home. Everybody was going to celebrate the success of his miracle surgery. And then, alas, in that tricksterish way of cardiac conditions, it all went terribly wrong. I take comfort in knowing that his aunt spent time in his memorial chair and in remembering the profound generosity of our parents. See you soon. And thanks for the post.

  3. Beverly said:

    What a sweet gift…

  4. It’s interesting how many unexpected encounters you’ve had with family history in the area. How meaningful that you found Malcolm’s chair just before his sister’s wedding.

  5. Susan Kennedy said:

    So grateful to read this (and to know you).

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