SERENADING GORDON IN THE CANCER WARD
St. Charles Hospital, Bend, Oregon
May 14th 1992
He was an old man,
pale and rickety, with one eye.
He was already mostly gone.
Seemed to be barely hanging on.
I sang him a love song
and he showed little emotion
on his diminutive face.
When the song was done
he looked quietly upon me
and spoke, “I devoted…
Is that how you say it?” he asked,
searching for a word.
“I devoted that song you sang to my brother in law.”
I spoke to him the word, dedicated.
“Yes,” he answered, “I dedicated that song
to my brother-in-law.
He just died today, right here…”
He pointed out of his room
and down the empty hall.
I held his frail hand
and squeezed it,
hoping I didn’t cause him pain,
for his hand bones were like bird’s bones;
they felt honeycombed
and light as feathers.
“Do you sing to people here for money,”
he asked, “or so you can be with God?”
What a perfect theology
this little man held.
Had he always known it,
or had a passing angel just whispered it
upon his inner ears?
“To be with God,” I answered,
and walked out of the hospital
into the warm night air
to gaze up at the full moon
shining in a mist.
The moon is like a soul to me, I thought.
Tonight it is full and beautiful,
reflecting a delicate light.
It would have been a good night
for Gordon to open up his hand bones
like bird bones and feathers,
and rise up out of his rickety old body
The sky seemed right for it.
I developed a music in the hospital program in Bend Oregon with a small group of devoted volunteers. We were trusted to move around freely, room to room, with guitars, Celtic harps, singers and an occasional flute, to engage each person with love and create music soaked atmospheres of peace and beauty. Over 6 years we gave intimate serenades to some where between 7,000 to 8,000 people… no one counted.
On the first night of the program I had two encounters that were exceptional, showing me that this work was blessed by something far greater than any of us. This was one of them.