Rachel Shiery, the five year old 'drop of golden sun', whose photo appears on the title page of the chapter "Thunderstorms" in Letters to Liesl, and to whom I dedicated the book (along with my daughters and granddaughter), died in July of 2001 after a long battle with brain cancer. This little girl was a remarkable human being. Both Jean and I were touched by her incredible spirit and the way in which she embraced life, and were honored to know her. The last time we saw her was when she and her family came as my guests to the premiere of Singalong Sound of Music in San Francisco. As the audience of 1500 sang "Do Re Mi" along with the film that night it reminded me of the moment a few months earlier when I had held Rachel in my arms on a stage in Sonoma, California and she sang the song along with 200 cast members. It was a moment of pure joy on both occasions.
In many ways, Rachel represents how children ARE the sound of music, and also the way in which music can bring joy to those coping with the most difficult of circumstances. I have thought about the power of "The Sound of Music" often in these days following the World Trade Center/Pentagon tragedy. I have heard from many people who are finding solace in the music, in the film, and in each other.
Like those who lost their lives in New York, the Pentagon, and Pennsylvania, Rachel Shiery stands as a reminder that life can be short - but she also reminds us that, whatever it's length, life should be lived with joy and laughter and song...