As I drove to play for a new patient for Hospice, I felt something whisper, " Go see him." I sighed and began to wonder if I should just stick with what I had planned for the day or turn my car around. I was determined to stick to the fabricated timeline in my head yet I continued to feel a sense of urgency to see the Hospice patient who has played the violin since he was 8.
I arrived at the entrance of the Assisted-Living facility to play for a new Hospice patient while continuing to wrestle with my thoughts. Should I see the patient who has played the violin since his childhood after this session or prioritize seeing newer patients? It's difficult to play for everyone when I'm allotted a certain amount of therapeutic music session hours per month due to budgeting and a growing list of people to visit and share music. I sighed again as I took out my phone. I felt another whisper, "Call." Okay okay but I saw him a week ago, I said in my head. "Call." My shoulders tensed from my indecisiveness and my violin grew heavier by the second. I walked over to a bench so staff inside the facility didn't come out wondering why a guy carrying a Captain America shield and musical instrument kept pacing back and forth at the entrance. Finally, I decided to call the patient's son. "Hello? Hi, my name is Alexander and I'm the violinist... "Yes hi thank you for calling", he replied. "My Father hasn't been doing well. I spent all weekend with him thinking that he would pass away but Dad is taking his time going to Heaven." I took a deep breath before asking, "I was wondering if I could return today to play for your Dad?" "Yes, please call the main line if I'm not there so the caregiver can let you in." I hung up thinking if I made the right decision. I know it's my job and thankfully families have appreciated the music but I always worry about intruding.
After the first session, I returned to my car to make my way to see the violin hospice patient. The steady breeze kindled the anxiety I felt welling inside as I approached the condominium where the patient resided. After the caregiver granted me access to the building via intercom, I quickly made my way inside to the elevator. As I rode the elevator up to his floor, I couldn't shake a sense of urgency. Perhaps I was just anxious to see the patient? "It's open," the caregiver said. "Hi, I'm from Hos..." "Yes, I know. He's in the other room." I was scared. I wasn't sure what to expect.
Last week, the patient was happy to hear that a violinist had come to play for him. He told me about the repertoire he used to perform and his fondness for Kreutzer Etudes. He had also wanted to play the violin once more, so I helped him hold my violin so he could bow the open strings while he laid in bed.
When I walked into the room, the patient let out a low moan as he shuffled from side to side in his bed. I debated leaving the room and telling the caregiver that this wasn't a good time, but I probably wouldn't have another chance. I took my violin out the case and began to play slow legato notes to see if he'd react to the music. He became still while his breathing remained sporadic and arrhythmical. I paused when he stretched out his legs and began to moan again. Was I making things worse? I told myself I would play for a few more minutes and leave. As I played again, the patient stopped moving. A few seconds went by and he hadn't taken a breath. I placed my violin by my side and waited. I kept counting, waiting for him to breathe again. I felt scared and cold, did he transition? I began to move to notify the caregiver outside the room until I saw the patient inhale and move again.
The rest of my time with the patient remained unchanged. He would take a breath and after a few moments, breathe again. I couldn't believe the difference in a week's time. We were laughing and discussing works by classical composers, but today all I could do was hope he heard the music.
As I exited the room, the caregiver thanked me for the music and asked if I played gospel. "Yes??" Random I thought. She invited me to play for a church event that she was organizing. She seemed excited about the possibility of me playing and encouraged me to continue doing what I was doing before I left the condo.
I sat in silence for a few minutes after I got into the car. I couldn't help but wonder if I could have done anything differently. I questioned how much time I'd have to play the violin in life.
I still do. Everyday. I want to make every time I play matter. To make a difference, because being able to play is a living example of God's grace that I don't want to waste.