"There aren't too many people who play the violin who look like us. I'm always proud when people our color do something good with their talent."
Today I went to play for a new Hospice patient in their home. As I approached the home, I noticed multiple oxygen tanks sitting in the back seat of a car parked in the driveway. I directed my gaze to the front door and saw a sign that read "Oxygen in use. No smoking or lit candles." I took a deep breath and knocked on the door. I began to wonder how the family would respond to the music. Would the patient be awake? Would I make a difference?
An elderly gentleman greeted me with a soft smile yet puzzled expression on his face. I reminded him that I was a Music Practitioner for Hospice and here to play the violin for his wife. "Oh, well come on in!" He guided me up the stairs and told his wife the violinist from Hospice was here to visit and play. As I ascended the stairwell, I noticed his wife sitting on the couch with a towel over her head while she received her oxygen. I said hello yet she remained in her own space. I thought perhaps she hadn't heard me over the sound of the oxygen concentrator and after saying hello once more she turned her attention to my direction.
The husband shared that he and his wife both loved music and had friends from church over earlier in the afternoon. With a smile, I announced the first song would be "Blessed Assurance." The husband seemed elated as he sat down next to his wife and hummed the chorus of the hymn. As I played the hymn, the wife reached for the blanket nearby and began to pick the material. She reminded me of grandmother. I would watch as my grandmother, coping with Alzheimer's, fidget with any nearby object while communicating with life inside her own world. It breaks my heart to see her that way. Sometimes music brings her back to me, to the present. Other times, she's far away even though she's right next to me.
I watched as the patient continued to pick at the fabric of the blanket while her husband closed his eyes and sang along. When I finished, the husband said, "that was excellent! You know what? I've never heard that song played on the violin before...I've always loved music. When I was young, going to church was our only recreational activity. We had limited options. Either work in the fields picking cotton or go to church. I'm always proud when people our color do something good with their talent."
I smiled at the time but his words slowly unfolded in my spirit as the session went on. During each song, his wife would reach for another object to interact with while the husband sang. He seemed so joyful, even while she stared into space fidgeting with the blanket. Before the final song of the session, he said, "Son, things happen in life and it is what it is." Wait, What? Where did that come from? He paused and said, "my wife and I really really enjoyed the music. We appreciate you traveling all this way to come and play for us. Thank you."
After the session, the husband walked with me outside. He said he wanted Hospice to know how much he enjoyed the music. How meaningful and soothing it was. He shared he appreciated that I took time out of the day to play music for his wife.
Before I got into my car, he reminded me how proud he felt that he saw someone who looked like him doing something good with their gift.