When the Saints Go Marching In

There are times where I go to play in Hospice and some families would prefer to spend time with their loved ones without hearing music or feel satisfied with a few minutes of a song. I’m glad I can make a difference either way. At Hospice, I am fortunate that my violin carries throughout the hallway into different rooms. Honestly, I feel as if my violin was made to play in that environment. I go to Hospice and Walter Reed to play for patients and every note rings…it feels important.

Today I remember going into a room and started to play Somewhere Over the Rainbow for a patient. Her son’s phone rang and he responded to the person on the phone that he was in the room watching his mom die. I wanted to stop playing and say I was sorry for him having to go through this or invading their space. I kept playing for a few more minutes to find myself playing softer and softer as he talked on the phone. My tempo began to crawl and I knew it was time for me to go. I thanked them for my time. I really meant it.

I went into the room of another patient behind the nurse as she administered medication. I stood there with a weary smile as I thought about my experience hearing the son talk on the phone about his mother. I forced myself to be present mentally and to my surprise, the patient seemed vibrant and cheerful. She shared with me her fondness for music and how she loved listening to the violin. I wanted to take advantage of the room’s acoustics so I played Summertime from Porgy and Bess. I love playing this piece on my violin because the major third D to F sharp on the A string have a youthful color and vibrancy to them that I felt at the time would match the woman’s mood and personality. I played two times through then an octave higher. She stopped me after the song and asked what I do for a living. I responded in saying…this. I use my violin to play all over and in daycare for kids and gym classes. She said that God must have given me this talent because people don’t play the way I do for no reason. I asked if I could play one more song and she said of course and that she could just cry…I thought to myself wondering what should I play? When the Saints Go Marching In came to mind. I played two voices at once with double stops and mimicked the range of a male and female voice. I remember smiling as I played and taking care of each note because I wanted to play my best. I wanted that song to matter and to be an important everlasting memory. I’m sure the meds had kicked in because the woman said she wanted to stay awake but now she could sleep. Or maybe that was the music too? What I really remember though was her saying that she would pray for me and the work I do. It hit me then. All I could muster was a thank you and say that I’m coming back to play soon.

I hope she’s still there so I can share more music with her next time.