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Mendy Smith

Music for the Soul

March 8, 2010 at 4:23 AM

This past week has been a rough one.  Last Monday I received a call I'd been dreading: if I wanted to see my grandfather again, it had to be soon - within hours.  I quickly packed, grabbed the viola and headed out the door to make the drive up to Tennessee.  I made it to the hospital at midnight, slept by his bed along with my mother.  The next morning, we were able to talk - a little.  The doctor expected him to pass away within hours/days at the most.  Well, GP (grand-pa) had his own ideas.  By Friday we moved him into the nursing home for hospice care. 

After we got GP settled in to the nursing home, I walked around the facility.  It is a very nice place as far as nursing homes are concerned.  But it tore my heart to see so many people (mostly women) in their wheelchairs gathered around the various nursing stations staring at each other and talking mostly to themselves as their daily social activity.  I found the administrator and asked if they would like a viola recital.  Definitely!  Yes!!!  We scheduled a time for Saturday.

Saturday morning, I went back to the nursing home and sat with my grandfather.  In the afternoon, a nurse poked her head into the room letting me know it was time.  I grabbed my viola and headed towards the cafeteria and started setting up as several residents were brought in.  Some of the women dressed up with coifed hair, red lipstick and fancy necklaces.  One of the few men at the home was right up front.  I'd seen him the previous day sitting quietly watching TV with a blank stare. 

I rifled through my music and pulled out Bach, feeling very thankful that I spent a good portion of my adult viola-life working on the Suites, and began with the 2nd movement of the 1st Suite.  It didn't  even cross my mind to be fearful of performing.  I was completely focused on making the music that was in my mind come out in my own playing.   Within a few measures it felt like the viola was playing herself, telling me what to do to make the sound more beautiful.  Between each movement, the residents applauded enthusiastically.  I continued through the Suites, picking a movement or two from each and ended the afternoon playing Ashoken's Farewell and the Sarabande from the 6th Suite.

As I packed up, two of the women spoke with me.  They were thankful for the music and said I played beautifully.  We talked for a bit, and then I headed back to my grandfather's room.  The door was open.  When I walked in, my aunt and a friend of the family were sitting by my grandfather.  I put my viola down and went to sit once again by his bed.  My aunt said they could hear me from the room.  I don't know if my grandfather heard or not.  He was asleep.  He had been sleeping for 3 days solid. 

I held his hand and felt the warmth.  It had been cold the other day.  Then I heard "the rattle".  I was louder than the previous day.  It won't be much longer now.

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on March 8, 2010 at 11:51 AM

 Mendy, I'm so sorry you're going through this.  What a wonderful gift you made to the residents!

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on March 8, 2010 at 1:19 PM

What an example for all you are! Bravo and courage in all this. So sorry for you.


From Mendy Smith
Posted on March 9, 2010 at 2:31 AM

GP passed away tonight.  My mother was with him. 

From Juergen L. Hemm
Posted on March 10, 2010 at 3:23 PM

Sorry to hear you lost your GP. You were there for him as long as you could and gave him and the others there a great gift with your recital. Must be hard to play when you're in a situation like this, but the eternal beauty of Bach's music seems to have lifted you and the listeners to a new level of energy.

The amateur orchestra I belong to plays several times a year in hospitals, sometimes in oncology and palliative clinics were some patients are too ill to physically attend the concert, so the music is broadcast to their room via closed-circuit technology. Time and again, nurses and doctors have told us that patients requested less medicine after those concerts and slept sounder.

Music has a huge healing and soothing power - thanks for sharing this with us.

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