Tales from the Empty Nest: The Last Serenade


Maybe your mind pictures a dashing minstrel serenading his beloved beneath her window to win her heart…this wasn’t that. Actually, the last serenade was live classical music floating in from my living room accompanying my morning breakfast prep. I scrambled eggs and fried bacon. Later that same day I would pack the car with my Hubby to move our youngest out of state, the last child to leave home.

This boy-turned-man had won my heart years ago, and his twilight serenades were a staple in my midlife musical diet. Often a private concert just for me, these sessions were much more than recompense for 12+ years of shuffling to piano lessons and recitals.

This breakfast was the last one I would prepare for my son for a long time. He graduated college in May. Deep in the job hunt for a teaching position, local interviews came and went. The job search broadened. A high school in North Carolina made an offer. After a flurry of air travel and apartment hunting, Hubby and I were now packing two cars to help move our son south.

Copyright 2015 Patricia W Gohn. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright 2015 Patricia W Gohn. All Rights Reserved.

When Peter first began playing piano as a little boy, he was a reluctant performer. So I would schedule his practice sessions while I was near enough to hear, but not hover. The best time followed playtime after school, and before the rigors of the homework. The hour I’d prepare and cook the evening meal was reserved for the real “play time”… from scales to sonatas to show tunes.

The habit stuck because I’ve been the beneficiary of my son’s musical prowess for at least the last ten years. His before-dinner serenades blessed my soul and always made my kitchen chores less laborious. For me, they also signaled a transition point…a letting go of the work related to-do list and finding moments to breathe in the beauty and peace of the day’s end.

The fast last days before Peter’s move necessitated many dinners away from home to say goodbyes to friends. Not much time to sit and play. Painstaking packing progressed too — the 88-key electronic piano would be safely nestled amid the newly purchased professional wardrobe, boxes of books, and used furniture.

The move day was preceded by a fun farewell cookout on Saturday. Sunday came and I was up before the rest to start breakfast. I could feel the weight of my mental checklist of what still needed doing.

Peter shuffled in to get a cup of coffee and disappeared, presumably to get ready for the late-morning Mass we would attend.

Then I heard Mozart hammered out on the baby grand.

I didn’t realize the force of emotions that would flow through me until I heard that first note. A moist tear mingled with the heat wafting from the skillet. I knew in that moment the depth of my own joy in having this sweet son, and the bittersweet kiss of the empty nest.

I will dearly miss Peter at the keys when I cook. Yet God’s good timing orchestrated one last loving serenade, albeit in the early morning…a musical counterpoint to this new transition in Peter’s life and mine.


Copyright 2015 Patricia W Gohn
Photo copyright 2015 Patricia W Gohn. All rights reserved.


About Author

Pat Gohn is a married "empty-nester" with three adult children. With a Masters in Theology, a Bachelors in Communications, and a heart for adult faith formation, Pat writes, speaks, blogs, and produces media with a eye toward faith sharing, teaching, and evangelization. Pat hosts the Among Women Podcast and is the award-winning author of Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious: Celebrating the Gift of Catholic Womanhood. Learn more at PatGohn.net


  1. Pat – I had a similar experience with my youngest son. He also practiced while I fixed dinner and the 3 older children studied at the kitchen table. That was our “study hour” on school days. He began lessons at age 5 and was composing by age 8. The last-moment memory of him and his music was on the eve of his wedding when he called me into his room, closed the door and sang the love song he had composed for his bride! Those at the wedding remember him surprising her with that song, but I remember the first time I heard it. Music tears at our heartstrings and comforts us with amazing memories of loving moments.

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