Thursday, January 5, 2012

Phenomenal day at work...

Phenomenal day at work...

As most of the RC readers know, I am a full time professional musician in addition to writing this blog. It was an extraordinary day and I wanted to share.

I'm a few months into my 16th year of  providing live musical entertainment for Seniors in Southwest Ohio. I'm incredibly blessed to be able to do this...and nothing but this...for this long. I've met some amazing people, seen profound courage and grace and learned a lot about my self along the way. Working with members of our "greatest generation" is a privilege.

Today began as most days do, I had a single show near downtown Dayton at 2:00pm. An Assisted Living facility, this group would be fairly high functioning but with some physical or early stage memory loss issues. A mixed group, I planned on performing a variety of material from Country, Big Band and Oldies. The show was fun, everyone got involved and left in better spirits than when they walked (or rolled) into the room.

That's what I do...or rather, that's what I get to do on a daily basis, over 400 times a year.

What made today different was the phone call I received from a long term client around lunch time, asking was I available for a special performance later today? I explained that I had a performance scheduled from 2:00pm to 3:00pm, but after that I was free. "What was up?" I asked...

The client explained that one of her residents, let's call her Mary, (not her real name) was facing surgery tomorrow where they would amputate her remaining leg. She previously had had one leg removed about two months ago. Mary was getting quite anxious about the procedure and the Activity Director wanted to think of something that might soothe her nerves for a while. The director knew Mary had followed me around for several years in my public performances and asked if I would come in and spend some time with her.

This woman is facing a surgery in a little over 12 hours to cut off her one remaining leg and they think I'm the guy to help her out? "Sure," I said, "...what room number is she?"

The director didn't tell Mary I was coming in. I'm not scheduled to perform there until later in the month, so there's no way she was expecting me. "Mary, you have a surprise visitor stopping by later on..." was all they told her.

I arrived at the facility around 4:30pm. I walked to her room and knocked on the door frame and said, "Hey Mary, what's up?" Mary didn't recognize me at first but as I walked toward her bed she realized who I was. She teared up and remarked to her room mate, "...this is the guy I told you about! This is the guy I told you about! You should hear him sing!!!"

I gave her a hug and sat with her for about 30 minutes. I held her hand the entire visit. We laughed, we talked about various things and she cried a few tears before I left. She was surprised to see me but I told her that for all the times you've come seen me, it's the least I can do to come by and wish you luck before your big day.

Mary has a great sense of humor. Last month when she saw me she exclaimed as she showed me her missing lower left leg, "Bill! They took my leg!" To which I replied "Well, let's go get it back!" Which made her laugh. Today, when she tried to put on a happy face about no more pain in the soon to be amputated lower limb, I offered up, "Just think of all the money you'll save on Podiatrist visits!" Which also, made her laugh.

I told her I'd see her in a few weeks and play her all-time, favorite song "The Very Thought of You" for her. I gave her one more hug for good luck and kissed her on the forehead as I said goodbye.

I don't know if I'll ever see her again...


There's something profoundly intense about having a connection with someone you don't really know on one hand, yet are almost intimate in a different way. The last time I performed for her at the home, I stopped my show and wheeled her from her table in the back of the room right up to the front of my keyboard. I sang "The Very Thought of You" directly to her. I looked her right in the eyes and watched the tears stream down her cheeks as she thought of her husband who used to sing it to her before he died several years ago.

I don't know her husband's first name. Or any of her children's names. Or her favorite dessert, color or actor. She doesn't know any of that about me, either. But somehow, through the magic and power of music and whatever I contributed to this, a really, really cool thing happened. I participate and enjoy moments like what I've described on a pretty routine basis. I never take them for granted. While I hear over and over again that my music and interaction with these wonderful folks is therapeutic, I have to confess its a two way street. I can't imagine anyone having a better time than I do...

How could they?


  1. That's the best blog you've ever written Bill.Keep up the good work ;).

  2. This is beautiful, Bill.

  3. Man, you shouldn't make a grown man cry Bill!
    ( at least not while he's at work ;) )

    What a lovely story, keep up the good work indeed! :)

  4. Great story, Bill.

    Gary (Travlin' Easy)