“It is true that life is difficult, but if it were not difficult we would not have a story worth telling.”
On September 12, 2012, one of my dearest friends, Anthony Flaherty, took his own life at his home.
I got the call at an ice cream social. A mutual friend told me the details. I didn’t believe her, so I called his phone. A family friend answered and confirmed. I rushed to the 3rd floor of the campus fine arts center: that’s where the pianos are. The piano has always been the medium by which I could feel. Unadulterated feeling.
The power of music.
For many hours I felt sorry for myself. I let my head lie on the keys. I prayed to God and asked for comfort through this situation. I didn’t understand it, and knew I probably never would. I let my right hand fall in the top register of the keys. My hand fell on a harmony of enlightenment and comfort to me: a mix of a major chord and suspension, completeness and confusion.
Through this chord, I feel like God gifted me with a vignette of peace.
I am happy to honor Anthony through a namesake piece. Anthony was a one of a kind friend: loving and compassionate to all, supportive, hilarious, and eccentric. He was passionate about young people finding their voices through public service. He was a generation or two removed. He listened to Frank Sinatra, loved The Golden Girls, wore sock suspenders, and had wisdom beyond his years. A true friend.
His suicide shocked his family and friends.
I struggled (and continue to struggle) to understand his decision. Flaher is my attempt.
Flaher (pronounced “flare”) explores the melodies and harmonic fabrics through the Flaher chord. An alto flute—A.F., his initials—is used to express his voice. Musical “flares” in the percussion show the ebb and flow of life, and are used at the conclusion as explosions of life.
I celebrate the memories, friendship, crazy shenanigans, and his playful personality. I explore Anthony’s pain of coming to this decision, and then the converse effect of grief for those he left behind. A celebration of life is built from the network of love communicated by those who remember and love Anthony.
We are all connected to a story of loss. But it is important to celebrate the beauty of life. It is important to talk about touchy subjects. If we can’t feel and express openly, we are not alive.
Flaher is Anthony’s story. And his is a story worth telling.