I couldn’t tell if the patient was male or female. Medium height, baggy robe, hat, no hair that I could see, an infectious disease mask covered most of the face. Tubes ran from an arm into an IV pole and beeping monitor on wheels. Diseases often have no gender. Equal opportunity misery. The body was gaunt, rail thin but there was an unmistakable twinkle in the eyes.
I’m a volunteer music therapist for some hospitals near where I live. I bring my guitar, iPad with lyrics, my voice and spirit to share with a spectrum of patients. Some are on their way to recovery. Some are dying. Some are lost in a Twilight Zone not of their making. I play. I sing. I try and let the music take them someplace better for a while.
There was clapping, lip synching, foot tapping, an occasional vocal part, an occasional rhythmic roll or spin in a wheelchair. I finished my last song. I was asked to do an encore. I did. Then it was time for me to go.
When I volunteer like this I’m my own band, my own groupie, my own roadie. So I break down the mic and stand. Pack up the iPad. Wipe down the guitar and zip it up back in its case. Then come the cables. Lots of cables. Mic cables, effects box cables, guitar cables, thru cables. A power strip.
I was kneeling on the floor coiling the very the last cable when a shadow crossed my field of vision. The mystery patient.
“Thank you for the music.” The voice was muffled by the mask.
I looked up to the non-gendered patient. “My pleasure. Really”
“I’m going to miss music very much. I remember seeing the Beatles when they first came here. And the Stones. And Janis. What a voice.”
I stood up and faced the patient. The eye twinkle faded. “I’m really going to miss live music especially. There’s nothing like it.”
I nodded in agreement. Kept coiling my cable.
“You realize I’m going to die.” The voice grew flat, cold.
I waited. There wasn’t much of an answer I could give.
“Soon.” The voice continued.
“Would you like me to play another song for you?”
“No. No, thank you. I just want to tell you how much I appreciate what you did. And that I’m going to miss live music.”
I nodded again, turned away for a moment and shuffled the gear aroun in my bag so I could zip it closed. As I turned away patient added one more thought.
“At least I’ll be dead when Trump is president.”