Below is an example essay that sets the scene around family members.
It was quite late and I still couldn't sleep. I lay in bed staring at the ceiling and watching headlights from the cars in the street below make their way across my blinds. Rather than tossing and turning any longer, I got up and felt my way through the dark hallway toward the living room. The yellow moonlight danced on the cold wooden floor and the few city night stars twinkled over my piano's soft white keys. On the dining room table a few cups and plates remained; all week visitors had come to pay their respects and finally the last couple had gone. I tried to replay my last encounter with Nona just a few days before, to remember how she spoke of meeting my grandfather in heaven and how I, with a lump in my throat, told her one last time, "Je t'adore, Nona."
My fingers lingered in the highest register of the piano singing a dreamy melody that mirrored what I was feeling. I longed to hug my frail Grandma, but I imagined my grandparents meeting again in heaven. I remembered the black and white photographs of my mother and her family growing up in Cairo. Nona used to tell me stories of how they were driven out of Egypt because they were a Jewish minority. I remembered the tears that filled her eyes as she painfully recounted the story of my grandfather's death. She explained to me that she had urged him to take a last-minute standby ticket to join the family for my Uncle Paul's birthday on a flight that never landed. My mother was only three years old and, consequently, grew up without a father; Nona always blamed herself.
I searched my memory for traces of her perfume and all the while played out into the night. It felt good to play, even stumbling on discordant chords, I felt unrestrained as though I were a little boy again, rushing with tears into my mother's arms. And as I took amused comfort in thinking that my Nona and Grandpa might be dancing to my melody, I heard a faint whimper from behind me.
"That's so beautiful," said my mother through gentle tears. She sat down on the living room sofa to listen and I remembered how she had arranged for me my first piano lesson and how she always sat behind me as I practiced, even how I occasionally got frustrated and asked her not to. But now I put everything into her favorite piece of music and let go. I wondered if my brother was also unable to sleep, and if he was lying awake in his bed, listening: saying goodbye in his own way. Maybe my dad was thinking of his own warm, loving mother and the feasts she cooks up for us every Rosh Hashanah. And it was sad, and it was beautiful, as all our emotions lingered in the hallway. Not much else mattered, not that school was about to start in just a couple days, nor that, with my brother leaving for school, we wouldn't be living as a family, that nothing would be the same. I played to keep our home warm under the lonesome moonlit night.
And when I reached the smorzando (dying away) cadenza and everything became quiet for a moment, my mother kissed me and with a smile and dried up tears told me, "Je t'adore, mon tresor."