A Pigeon Hill teenager with an aggressive cancer was reunited Wednesday with a friend — the baby grand piano that brought her comfort during more than a year of chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
It was a surprise gift, a shiny black instrument with a bow on top, delivered to Emelie Holmes-David's living room, thanks to the Children's Wish Foundation.
Not only had Emelie, 15, wished for the piano, she thought this particular piano was meant to be hers.
At 14, Emelie was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a cancer of the soft tissue, and began a rigorous treatment program that included 53 weeks of chemotherapy and 12 weeks of radiation.
'It's like therapy.' - Emelie Holmes-David, on her love of music
Having grown up with music, especially as a singer in the church choir, Emelie turned to music for solace when her cancer treatments began.
She would listen to music on earphones during chemotherapy in Moncton and try to get to know the piano — one, in particular.
Someone had told her about the baby grand at the Long and McQuade music store, not far from the hospital she often had to visit.
Emelie decided to teach herself to play, mostly by ear and with some help from YouTube, and she practised a few times on the baby grand.
"It's like therapy," she said in an interview in French.
Meanwhile, her mother was encouraging her to make a wish with the Children's Wish Foundation. It took Emelie a while to agree, said Vicky David.
"We said, 'Do you want a shopping spree?' She said 'No, I have everything I need.' So, finally, she decided to have a piano."
Always a singer
David has watched Emelie, the youngest of her three children, blossom as a singer throughout her childhood, although she's not always eager to play for an audience.
The nurses at the IWK children's hospital in Halifax, where Emelie received treatment, begged her to sing for them but she wouldn't, David said.
Emelie did, however, play piano at the hospital — just once and for a small audience.
"There's a playroom there and there was a mom there just with her kid," David said. "And Emilie went and played.
"The mom came to see me and said 'Oh, my god, your daughter made my day. She made me forget what's going on here.'"
Retelling the story, Emelie's mother spoke through tears.
A wish granted
The Children's Wish Foundation worked quickly to put together the piano surprise for Emelie and her family at their home on the Acadian Peninsula. Kelly Hare, the provincial director of the organization, said the gift was possible with help from Long and McQuade, Geldart Moving and Yamaha Canada.
I'm excited to just play on it," Emelie said when the baby grand arrived. "I can't wait."
As she sat down at the piano, she glanced at her audience: family, friends, and Ava Silver, a young Children's Wish recipient and fundraiser who wanted to wish Emelie well.
Softly, the first few chords of Hallelujah played.
"I like that song, and it's a Christmas song, too," said Emelie.
As she finished, the room filled with applause.
"Une autre!" someone yelled.
So she played another.