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I guess that Mr. LaGuardia had time to think seriously about the possibility of this happening.

In 1997, as he was leading a youth orchestra, he felt pain coursing through his arms during a solo by a young girl playing the clarinet. He didn't want to disrupt the child, so he endured the pain for 30 seconds while keeping his arms high above his head. After the piece he set his baton down and dashed off the stage before collapsing behind the curtain where only the children could see.

Tracy LaGuardia rushed to her husband's side as doctors from the audience responded.

"I think this might be it. I love you," he said at the time. He had a peaceful look on his face. He would, however, survive another 15 years.

In one sense, sudden death is always too soon, too fast. But Mr. LaGuardia had 14 years to comprehend and prepare himself for the possibility of this happening. Think of how much music would never have been made, how much young musicians would have missed, if Mr. LaGuardia had been persuaded to retire back in 1997.

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