With the sudden passing of one of my wife’s brothers at the too young age of 61, our sister-in-law uncovered an old song in his paperwork. My wife (and her family) also lost a younger brother 34 years ago to leukemia at the age of 21. Maurice was a talented musician, who could play a mean guitar. His father was also a talented guitarist, but I am told his youngest son may have been better.
As he was undergoing treatment he wrote a song entitled “Headin’ out that door,” which he noted an alternate title as “Four walls.” Maurice died before I met my wife. When he wrote this, he was still on the more optimistic end of the treatment, but I am certain he knew the darker prognosis. He knew the walls were closing in one way or another. So, I feel the final few lines of each stanza could be viewed as a release from the monotony of the four hospital room walls in what ever form it may take.
Here are the first and third verses, which give you a sense of his talent and thoughts:
Trapped without your loved ones, no place else to go.
Wondering how they’re doing, with the passing of each day.
Gazing out your lonely window, knowing very soon.
You’ll be heading out that door again, heading out that door again.
Trapped inside a lonely place, closing in once more.
People come and people go, never say much more.
Ask ya’ how you’re doing, go on their merry way.
I’m heading out that door again, heading out that door.
As I read these lines, I try to put myself in his place. You are doing what must be done, and hope and pray it is effective. Yet, there is a monotony to the waiting in a place where waiting seems like an eternity. There is a monotony and anxiety to not knowing. It also helps remind me as a visitor that every visit counts. Being there counts. Listening is essential. Talking about things the person enjoys or updating him on friends and occurrences helps break the monotony.
As a visitor, you wonder by telling things going on, do you make things worse by saying what the patient is missing? These words instruct me that we should keep folks informed. The conversation is what keeps us closer. Each person is different and some may want solace. And, some guests may be more welcome respite than others. Yet, like any conversation outside the hospital, look for non-verbal cues and in another stanza, Maurice said for people to “listen.”
The key message to all of this is life is short, sometimes very short. Never miss a chance to give a goodbye hug or share your love for someone, even if it is a mere look, touch or just lending a good ear. Life is hard enough. Those moments are the tonic to make it easier.