French sisters Véronique and Adeline both credit their mother with their love of music and the fact that they both make their living in music. Both unmarried, they appreciate the fulfillment that comes from interacting with so many children and embrace the opportunity to have an impact on young lives. They also have an impact on their mother, who they care for in their home. Their generosity of spirit and their willingness to engage deeply with others contributes to their rich enjoyment of a fully productive life. Lire cette interview en français.
Tell me what it was like to be raised in the Church in France.
Adeline: Our parents converted several years before our birth.
Véronique: In the sixties.
Adeline: Yes, so we were born into the Church, and we immediately had the benefit of a religious education–it was wonderful. We liked going to church, we enjoyed participating in activities and programs. We were pretty involved.
Véronique: Very much so. Our parents never had to force us to do things; we did them spontaneously because we enjoyed it. We liked seminary and institute. Not wanting to go to church simply wasn’t a problem.
Why do you think it came so easily?
Adeline: First of all, we had a rather unique mother: she wasn’t the kind of person to force religion on us, and she wasn’t fanatical about it either, so we felt pretty free to choose. It wasn’t our father’s style either. I think there might have been something like a grace from God; it’s a gift that it came so naturally.
Véronique: And maybe also a legacy from our ancestors. We are descended from a protestant branch. They were Huguenots who fought for the right to live their faith, and perhaps in a way they gave us a legacy of faith. You could wonder why my father accepted the gospel (he was the first in the family), and I think it was because of this religious legacy that when the missionaries knocked on our door, he was ready. He wasn’t a practicing protestant, even though he had been raised to be, so there must have been something–something in the air!
You have both served missions. What brought on that desire?
Adeline: First off, all of our brothers served a mission. We have three brothers; the eldest set the example and the others followed. Véronique had always spoken of serving a mission, and I was kind of the little one watching. I didn’t feel any sort of pressure to go because everyone else had done it, but in the end I wanted to serve a mission as well. I’m sure the examples of my siblings played a part, and there were all the mission stories they told when they came home. I wanted to experience it too.
Véronique: And I served in New Caledonia, the same mission as my older brother who had left a few years before, and it was a very enriching experience. I loved serving this people with so many different ethnicities and I learned a lot. It’s something I will never regret, and I’m still benefiting from that today; what I learned on my mission continues to bless my life now.
Adeline: And for the funny story, Véronique wanted to go to a colder, English-speaking country, and she ended up in New Caledonia; and I definitely didn’t want to stay in a francophone mission, and I was sent to the Brussels, Belgium mission. But the Lord knows us better than we know ourselves, and it turned out to be an extremely enriching experience, especially since I returned to my birthplace, in the north of France, and found members I hadn’t seen for years. There was a very warm atmosphere and the people I served there were wonderful people and I loved my mission. It’s at that time that I really understood the gospel’s vital role in my life. It’s not just some good thing–it’s vital, and without the gospel I am nothing.
Now you are both music teachers. Why?
Véronique: Well it’s because of our mother.
Adeline: Thanks to!
Véronique: Yes, thanks to her. It’s kind of a mix of the two, because she’s a professional musician. She received her piano diploma from the Conservatory of Rome. It was always an extremely important part of her life, and she fought for each of her children to study music and learn an instrument.
And it really takes a lot of courage, because with children, there are times when they don’t want to practice or do anything at all. My mother always fought to have us continue; she got us to our lessons, and in the end we all received music degrees. Of her five children, three of them play or teach music for a living, and another one did it professionally for a while.
Adeline: And honestly it was never a question of whether or not we wanted to do music. It was like breathing, eating, or drinking; we just had to do music! And I am happy about it because I truly love my job. I love teaching and I do not regret at all the fact that, in a certain way, my mother made the choice for me.
Véronique: It’s also a job that allows you to have a lot of free time and flexible hours, and an autonomy that you wouldn’t necessarily have in another line of work with a boss always supervising you. I manage my own classroom, and on top of that it’s so pleasant to be with children.
Adeline: Yes, the human contact with students and what we can bring them goes beyond just teaching them to play an instrument. Sometimes it’s helping students who are having family issues or stress in their life; sometimes you almost act as a therapist. One of my adult students told me that she started playing the piano at a time in her life when she was going through a really rough patch, and that music had helped her to get out of it.
Véronique: We can also have an impact on their confidence – of course, we could never replace their parents, but a professor has a privileged relationship with the child because sometimes the child is in conflict with their parents. There are tough times during adolescence and the professor can be a third party. The professor is the master for whom the child has respect and with whom they can establish a special relationship. We can help children get through tough times with music and through the encouragement and support we give them.
And neither of you are married.
Véronique: No we are not married.
Adeline: Not yet!
In the Church we talk a lot about the importance of family. You are two sisters who live together. How do you experience the concept of family right now?
Véronique: First off–and this might be bit unusual–we’ve never been alone. We’ve always been surrounded by people, whether it was our parents, whom we cared for when they were sick (and we’re still caring for our mother), or extended family. Our brothers had children so there are nieces and nephews. Even though we’re single, we’re a family.
Adeline: Yes, and it’s been a pleasure. We’re so happy to have a big family, to have nieces and nephews that we adore; it’s enabled us to care for children from infancy through adulthood, to have a special relationship with them, and for us, that was a huge blessing.
And it really makes you think about how the Lord always pulls something positive out of situations that would seem “negative” or difficult. It’s true that we don’t have husbands or children, but on the other hand, we’ve had time—time to care for our parents, time to care for our brothers sometimes, time to care for our nieces and nephews, so we’ve had the opportunity to share our time with all of our family, which is something we couldn’t have done if we had had families of our own.
Véronique: And in the Church, too. We’ve been leaders in the Young Women’s organization; we’ve organized camps, young adult and single adult conferences, temple trips (Editor’s note: the stake’s assigned temple is in Madrid, Spain).
Adeline: And Primary. And aside from all of that, we also have friends, members of the Church who are like family to us. We have wonderful ties with those people that go beyond just friendship.
And you also spend a lot of time with students.
Véronique: Yes. We’re surrounded by kids—maybe we’ve just never grown up! (Laughs.) We haven’t aged; we’re still constantly with kids.
A big part of your life is dedicated to caring for your mother; she lives with you and you have been her primary caregivers for years now. It isn’t always easy. How do you cope?
Adeline: Our mother was an example for us in that way, because she was always very concerned about her family. She cared for her own mother, and it never occurred to her to think “Okay, well now that I have my own family, the rest of my family isn’t my responsibility anymore.” Not at all. And always, even when she got married, she was concerned for her parents’ and her brothers’ well-being. I think we’ve inherited that from her.
She was also a very loving mother, despite having what you could call a strong personality. She sacrificed a lot, and she was a very generous woman. My dad would often tell me how he would “test” her when she was eating something he knew she really liked. He would ask if she’d give him a bite when there was only a little bit left, and she never refused once!
Finally, things just worked out so that we were able to care for her, and we’re happy about it. For a while she had to be in a rest home: after our father’s death we cared for her for seven years and things got pretty complicated because she couldn’t stand to stay alone while we were at work, so she had to go to a rest home. After a few years she expressed the desire to come back with us. It was a lot to set up, since with age she’s become more complicated to care for, but we strongly felt that she should come back. It’s been several months now and things have gone incredibly well. I feel at peace. Having her come back to live with us was what we needed to do.
Véronique: And I think it’s pretty normal, after everything our parents did for us. They cared for us, they sat up late at night, so it seemed normal that when the time came that they were tired and needed their children, we stepped in and the roles were inverted. It’s the natural order of things, and we have been blessed and helped. We’ve always been able to find a way to make things work out. We’ve done it out of duty but also out of love–after all, what we’ve done with our mother we wouldn’t just do for anybody!
In the end, we feel so blessed to be members of the Church, and I don’t know what we did to deserve it but we must have done something good! Having the gospel is such an advantage– having a direction in our lives, knowing where we’re going, why we’re here–and it helps us in tough times, gives us hope and support to overcome whatever may happen. In the gospel there’s the “perfect” model for family, but outside of that there are many different situations: you could be a widow, you could be divorced, you could have children who left the Church, all sorts of situations where in reality it’s not much like the ideal model. But even if we’re not in that situation, it’s important to uphold the ideal model. Even if things don’t go the way you wish in life, it’s okay; we just need to keep the commandments and if we are righteous Heavenly Father helps us and we can have a fully productive life.
Whatever the situation may be, if we apply the principles of the gospel we’ll have a productive life, and that’s what is important. Then any adjustments that need to be made will be made later. But just because we’re single doesn’t mean that we cannot accomplish anything and that we don’t have a mission and a role to play on earth.
There are great things we can do and it would be silly to miss out because we’re sitting at home wallowing in self-pity. And most of all, I’ve never felt alone with the gospel. When you’re surrounded by family, by the members of the Church (even if they’re not family, the members become our family), and when you have the Holy Ghost with you, you’re never alone. It’s a feeling I have simply never experienced.
Adeline: And we each have a place in Christ’s church. In Relief Society or elsewhere, I’ve never felt like I didn’t belong because I didn’t fit into the core family mold. It’s true that we all have different lives, and we each follow a path in life that we didn’t necessarily choose. “C’est la vie,” and you just have to deal with it. Even if we haven’t received certain blessings, we’ve received so many other blessings that it would be incredibly ungrateful to only see what we don’t have. We have a rich life. Sometimes with trials, for sure, and it isn’t always easy, but the Lord gives us everything we need to overcome the trials of life, and the gospel gives us so much joy.
At A Glance
Name: VÉRONIQUE DEFRANCHI
Location: Talence, France
Marital Status: Single
Occupation: Music teacher
Schools Attended: Bordeaux Conservatory
Languages Spoken at Home: French
Favorite Hymn: “Abide With Me: ‘Tis Eventide”
Name: ADELINE DEFRANCHI
Marital Status: Single
Occupation: Music Teacher
Schools Attended: Bordeaux, Toulouse and Poitiers Conservatories
Languages Spoken at Home: French
Favorite Hymn: “Our Savior’s Love”
Interview Produced by Lydia Defranchi