Over the Rainbow

by Brenda Baltensperger from Calgary, AB

Every time I hear Over the Rainbow it brings tears to my heart for very good reason. 

198l was a very bad year. My husband died early that year and, a few months later, in July, I almost lost my eldest son Nick.

Nick was a music student at Mohawk College in Hamilton, and at that time, I was living in St

Nick had been born with a medical condition that we became aware of when he was seven. Because this condition limited him physically, he quickly fell in love with music. Music was the life. 

A few months after his father's death, Nick became ill and went into hospital in Hamilton.  

The neuro-surgeon told me that Nick needed surgery but that the risk was high and that if he survived he could be completely or partially paralyzed.  

Nick’s brother and I sat through the six and a half hour surgery in the hospital waiting room.  
Finally we were told that Nick had come through okay but that we would have to wait and see regarding his mobility. 

A day later Nick slid into a coma. He had had a stroke. He did recover and eventually was sent to another hospital for physiotherapy but the prognosis was bad. He was told that he most likely wouldn't walk again and that he'd never again would he play the piano. Nick went into a deep depression and refused to talk to his music teacher or students from Mohawk. He wouldn’t even listen to music.  

His brother and I tried to encourage him; we told him he had to believe in himself. We told him that anything was possible. 

Months passed. Each Sunday I would go and visit Nick in the hospital and we would spend that day together. 

By the time six months had passed, Nick was able to talk and "walk" himself around the hospital in a wheel chair.

One Sunday I arrived at the ward for our visit and found that Nick wasn't there. I was desperately worried about him until one of the other patients said he had gone down to the common room. 

I hurried down there and found Nick sitting at the piano. He was trying to play Over the Rainbow. His fingers were collapsing on the keyboard and tears were streaming down his face. This was the turning point for him. After another six months of therapy, Nick came out of hospital and returned to complete his graduation at Mohawk College.  

At the graduation concert Nick walked onto the stage, threw down his canes, limped to the piano and played a concerto he'd written. He received a standing ovation. It was the proudest day of my life. He had found his rainbow.

Today, Nick works as a music journalist, composer and sometime teacher at a Toronto college. He recently worked on the program for the JUNO awards and I can't help thinking about when he and several of his high school pals, including Ron Sexsmith, used to jam in my basement.