Last Embrace

I thought she had more time. I really did. I stared at my phone in disbelief after reading the patient death and discharge update. Permanently etched into my memory is the time I played Disney songs as the mother embraced her child sobbing and apologizing. “She’s not feeling herself today. Normally she’d talk and sing but not today.” As I played You Are My Sunshine, the mother sang sweetly into her daughter’s ear on the sofa. I fought back tears as I played. I saw the grace and love the mother gave her daughter as she sang through her tears.

Two weeks after the first visit, I ran into the case manager during the Hospice kids memorial event. “The mom has had a hard time showing emotion since her daughter became sick so it’s amazing she responded the way she did” said the case manager. I kept replaying the visit over and over in my head while she talked. Should I go back? Was the music too much? I wondered but still asked the case manager if she could ask the mother about another visit. I made a point to visit again after getting feedback from the case manager and set up a time for the next week. I prepared more Disney songs and music the mother said her daughter enjoyed. The morning of the next visit, the mother needed to reschedule. She said her daughter wasn’t feeling well. I said I’d be available when she’s doing better and thanked her for allowing me to play the first time. Days later, the daughter passed away.

I tossed my phone on the kitchen counter and clenched my fists. I yelled damn it loud enough to startle Emily. I thought she had more time. She was just a child.

I still replay the visit in my head. I’m motivated to be a better musician and human being for the families of Hospice during the time I have with them. I’m in awe of their strength to care their loved ones as they watch them transition and hope the music makes a positive lasting impact.