Hundreds of eyes followed my movements as I shakily rose from my seat and walked up to the piano. The church had fallen quiet; the only sound that broke the eerie silence was the soft sound of my sheet music rustling in my trembling hands. The paper was growing damp as my palms became sweaty with nerves getting the better of me.
As I reached the grand instrument I set the music down on the supplied stand, relieved to find that my perspiration had only affected the edges. The top of the first page read Chances by Athlete, and despite the grim circumstance I had found myself in I felt a small smile tug at my lips. It had been my mother's favourite song and I was going to honour her in the best way I possibly could ... By playing it at her funeral.
Lowering myself down to the piano stool, I allowed by bloodshot eyes to drift to the coffin. It sat atop the small stage, covered in vibrantly-coloured flowers, delicate spiral patterns, and koru shapes etched into the woodwork. It was beautifully decorated, just the way Mum would have liked it.
Before I could give myself the chance to tear up again, I inhaled deeply and placed my experienced fingers on top of the starting piano keys. My hands were still shaking, so I tried to zone myself and block out all the distractions surrounding me. There was only one thing that mattered, and that was the music.
I began to play. The sentimental lyrics ran through my mind as I performed the slow song, creating a fresh film of tears that welled in my eyes. I knew I wasn't doing the song justice, wrong notes were being hit here and there, keys held down for a fraction too long or not long enough. I, the pianist was falling apart at the piano.
Disappointment and frustration surged through me. I knew I was ruining the song and I was nearly ready to give up. Mum wouldn't have wanted it to be like this. Just when I was about to mash the keys and storm off, a shimmering figure to my right caught my attention. Tears had blurred my peripheral vision, so I had to turn my head ever-so-slightly to acknowledge the new appearance, only to have my heart stutter at the sudden, startling sight.
My mother; she was sitting beside me on the stool, pale and translucent, a watery smile upon her lips. I would have yelled and screamed, or halted my performance mid-song to shout something outrageous about spirits, but her gentle expression told me there was no need to be afraid. I met her gaze and an odd sense of security rapidly replaced my frustration.
Placing a slightly larger hand on mine, her touch just ghosting my skin like a cold breath of air, she began to play in unison with me. At her elated smile a warm feeling spread through me, watching out the corner of my eye as we played her favourite song, her head swaying side-to-side slightly in time with the music.
Together we executed the song flawlessly, earning a standing ovation from the church despite my earlier mistakes. To this day I don't know if she was just a projection of my imagination or something other-worldly, but as she slowly faded to nothing beside me, blowing a kiss goodbye to her only daughter, I was sure I had done her proud.