I felt a calling to visit a particular Hospice patient of mine so I set out to visit her as soon as I could. I’m learning that sometimes we’re called to a certain task at a seemingly random time for an important reason. I was excited because two weeks prior, I visited and learned that she had been playing the violin for the majority of her life and loved music.
The first visit was so endearing and heartfelt. She laid on the couch and couldn’t believe I came the day after she requested music through her social worker. She pointed to her violin on the floor and said that she used to play but got sick and couldn’t any longer. She shared that she had worked on the Vivaldi Seasons right up until she had to put the violin down for good.
Before I began, she asked where I studied. Amazingly, we knew the same violinists and community. I know this is cliche but it’s such a small world. I started with Ave Maria and I wish you could have seen her face light with warmth and joy. She seemed at peace.
After the music, she told me she wished she was well enough to get up and play duets with me. I ended with Salut d'amour by Edward Elgar to which she responded with a kind smile and light chuckle.
I reflected on that visit as I drove to her home and couldn't help but become eager and excited to play once more. I knocked on the door and the caregiver answered. She remembered me from the first visit and her smile faded. “She’s taken a turn for the worst and probably won’t want to hear the music but I’ll talk to her.” I accepted the news and said I had a quilt to give her from Hospice ( a group of talented women makes quilts for Veterans and Hospice patients). I waited in the hallway and the caregiver said that I could go in and talk to her but music would be too much. I gave a nod and placed my violin case on the floor. I walked in the room and heard the oxygen machine pumping air into her lungs. She stretched her arm straight into the air as if she were grasping for something. She was in pain and agony. Her brows furrowed and body clenched. The caregiver came in and said she had administered morphine but it barely had an effect. I laid the quilt gently across her body and as I thought of what to say.
“Thank you for listening. Thank you for smiling when we met. I’m thankful I was able to play for you the first time.”
Shortly after, the nurse arrived and we chatted in the hallway. She said the patient was agitated and wanting to pass but couldn’t. The caregiver then said that playing classical music on the radio the day before was too much so she had turned it off. She also shared that the patient had told her earlier that she didn’t want to be here anymore and wanted to go. She was ready to die.
I left the house and was met with a deafening silence. All I could do at that moment was stand still and accept that I had said goodbye. I felt humbled yet sad. I’m thankful I could see her one last time and hope she finds rest soon.