I was already nervous for him and became more so when his initial pause extended into what seemed a delay. I wanted him to accomplish this himself, but more than once in those brief seconds, my muscles contracted to pull me up from my chair and go see if he needed any help.
No, stop, my mind said, he can do it.
Excluding my leg muscles, all 150 or so of us waited patiently for about 30 seconds when finally my son began by saying:
"And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left..."
Zac continued to recite until the end of the verse, and I was filled with pride for my son having accomplished something that many grown men and women are unwilling to do.
I gave him a hug as he sat down. Now it was my 8-year-old's turn.
If I was nervous for Zac, I was even more nervous for Remi. Remi is a bit harder on himself and has a tendency to succumb to stage fright because of it. That Remi would be at the piano was a bit of a tender mercy since he would not have to see anyone's faces.
Silently as he began to sit at the piano bench, I wondered if he remembered the stage fright that had overcome his dad when playing at the very same piano just a few months prior. I knew the song backwards and forwards, but my anxiety got the best of me in the middle of the song and my hands temporarily froze over the keys during a difficult part. Even for an adult, it was a devastating moment.
Would the same happen to Remi?
He began playing his piece, Jesus Wants Me For a Sunbeam, first with his right hand. He had practiced over 100 times on our electronic piano at home, and it sounded gorgeous on the beautiful grand piano on which he played now.
Again, I was relieved. This son was going to be okay, too.
But now, it was my turn. As Remi approached the end of the first verse, I stood. In accordance with Zac's verse, I stood behind the piano bench and wrapped my right and left hands around my son to begin playing an improvised accompaniment on the low and high keys. After a small intro, my son began playing his second verse, and the duet began.
Now was the real proving ground. I had completely frozen at the same piano just months before. If I did so now when playing with my son, I would be humiliated forever.
Don't mess this up, Josh.
What Remi and I had practiced was that my improvisation would steadily get more and more complex as the song progressed. I was never the melody, so I instructed Remi to play loudly while I would play quietly to make sure that the congregation would continue to hear the underlying message.
And so it was. The son's simple tune was enhanced and beautified through the practiced efforts of a loving father. My son was protected on the right and on the left, and the outcome was one that had been worth our every effort.
About 3 seconds to the end, the last page fell off the piano. All the same anxiety shot through me again. Remi had just played his last note, and I had this flourish at the end I was supposed to do. I closed my eyes and literally punched through the last few notes. It was done, and it had come out beautifully.
My son stood from the bench, I gave him a hug, and we sat down in our seats.
The rest of the meeting progressed as planned with speakers that the bishopric had chosen. I was on cloud 9: My two sons had just performed in front of over 150 people, and those people had been uplifted for a brief moment by a 6-year-old and an 8-year-old sharing a message about our relationship with our Savior Jesus Christ.
These are the moments that I go to church for: The palpable glimpses into Heaven that are manifested when we genuinely try to act as Jesus would act, when we are working together as families and a congregation in our journey back Home. We don't hit that note every time, but when we do, it's worth it.