Andi Cumbo is a writer, editor and writing teacher who is currently working on a book about the people who were enslaved on the plantation where she now lives. She blogs regularly at and if you’d like more information about her book project, you can visit her Kickstarter page.


My Mom's hands.

It’s easy to think that to make a difference we have to do great things – cure a disease, write a bestseller, invent the newest social network, end hunger.  Somehow, we have come to think that greatness only comes with magnitude, not with simplicity or individual attention.  We have some to see the day to day as mundane, unimportant, invaluable.  My mom knew better.

The church that day seemed to shimmer with light. Despite the tears and the grief, the place felt serene, peaceful, uplifted, like a strong arm was pulling us all close to share our warmth with one another.

Every single pew was full of people who loved my mom.  I don’t know why this surprised me; she was loved by everyone who knew her.  I suppose somehow I had absorbed the view she had of herself – that she was “just a piano teacher” and “just a church choir director.”  Inadvertently, I had come to understand her as she saw herself, but no one ever thought of her as “just” anything.

Each week for over 20 years, Mom taught dozens of kids how to play the piano, but while there was music involved in her lessons, more than anything, these were times where her kids  (as she called them)got one on one attention from someone who, despite lack of familiar relation, loved them unconditionally.  She would tell me about them when I came home to visit – the funny stories they shared about school and the challenges they faced with the demands of childhood.  That time on the piano bench with Mrs. Cumbo was precious – for them and especially for her.

One evening a week, Mom led the church choir. Her practices – I was recruited for many of them by means of daughterly obligation and mirth – were full of laughter and Mom’s dry, dry wit.  Her sense of sarcasm blended perfectly with her tact to make her not only a very accomplished director but a motivator as well.  While we may never have rivaled the Cambridge Singers, Mom always helped us make a “joyful noise.”

So that day, one year ago, where we filled the church to celebrate Mom’s life, when the place was haloed in love and a peace that passes all understanding, we did our best to make a joyful – if tearful – noise, in honor of the woman who was never “just” anything. The woman who knew meaning and change came through a piano bench and a little sarcasm on a Sunday night.  Thank you, Mom.

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