Tuesday, November 29, 2011

November 29, 2011: Full Circle...


Possible tissue alert... just warning ya...

When my dad died of cancer in October of 1997, Enya was playing in his bedroom.  It was like the sound of angels.  Have I told you this story?  I was a 25 year old struggling musician.  At that moment, I thought to myself, "Wow, if I could be the soundtrack of someone's transformation from life to afterlife, THAT would be the highest use of my gifts as a musician."  That moment led me eventually to music therapy.  As a music therapy student, I had the honor of playing for a church member as they withdrew life support.  I remember thinking that in that moment, I had realized my vision.

However, as you may know, the moment Bella's heart stopped in October 2010, her birth song came on the ipod playing in her hospital room, 45 minutes into a playlist that was playing.  I sang along as we unhooked her from the machines trying to keep her alive, and in doing so, I had the honor and privilege of being the soundtrack to my own daughter's transformation into afterlife.

I thought FOR SURE that this was the end of the story.


There is no end to the story.

It just keeps unfolding.

Today, I had the honor of playing for a gentleman that I have seen on several occasions.  He is a very wise man, a retired lawyer, educated in England, born in Pakistan.  I told his son the day I met them both that he was lucky to have such a wise man for a father.  I have never spoken that way in front of an elder ever, but it was apparent to me.  The father taught me an arabic phrase, "Insha'Alla", which means "God willing" or "if God wills it."  In the Qu'ran, Muslims are told that they should never speak of something they intend to or plan to do in the future without adding "insha'Alla" at the end of the sentence as a reminder that it is ultimately God's will whether a thing happens or not, for He has the power to make all things happen or not happen.  I love this, because if we can live with this submission in our hearts, it allows us to be free from the illusion of control, and boy, if we can let go of THAT wheel for a while, THAT is a pathway away from suffering, indeed.

Anyway, this wise gentleman has been in and out of the hospital on several occasions, and knowing his diagnosis, I knew that unfortunately, he was not long for this earth.  It had been a couple of weeks since I had seen him when I walked into his room yesterday.

I saw death waiting in the corner.

The man was beaten, this time he would not emerge from this room alive.  He lay in his bed, propped up, but crumbling.  His countenance brightened when he saw me, for we have enjoyed each other's company very much on each occasion.  I played my guitar for him, and as I played, I couldn't help but think about the Little Drummer Boy...

I played my drum for Him pa rum pum pum pum 
I played my best for him pa rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum
Then He smiled at me pa rum pum pum pum
Me and my drum

I felt like that little boy yesterday.  I wasn't a doctor, or a nurse.  All I had was my quiet little guitar, but boy, I played my guitar for him, and I played my best for him.  As I played, one of his sons who I just met for the first time reclined his bed, and he fell asleep.  As I said goodbye, he remained asleep.

I didn't know if I'd see him again.

Today, I returned to his room, expecting worse, and I found it.

Death was now up hanging on the rails of the bed.

My wise old friend lay back, eyes rolled back in his head, dispondent.  His younger son that I met initially (around 25 years old by the way) was in the hallway with I'm guessing his uncle listening to a resident ramble on nervously," there's just nothing more we can do..."

The talk.

I walked up to my old friend and told him I was here to play for him, but this time, no response.

I got my guitar, but this time it was time for me to say goodbye.  Have I told you about the hymn that was written through me intended for hospice patients?  I say through me, because it may have come out of me, but it is not by me.  All the lyrics and chords came at once one day in 1999... at a time in my life that I was very far from church.  It's the hymn I played while my church member began to cross over.  It's called "His Love is Everlasting."  Here  are the lyrics:

His Love is Everlasting

When you feel God’s light upon you
Radiant beams they surround you
Leading you home
When you feel God’s arms around you
Safely and soft they enfold you
Leading you home

His love is everlasting
Though at times you may feel afraid
But his arms are always around you
Leading you home
When you’ve gone astray

When you feel god’s love inside you
Fire from within it warms you
Leading you home
When you feel God’s hand upon you
Strength from his touch is feeds you
Leading you home


When you feel God calling to you
Listen and hear him guide you
Leading you home
When you see God all around you
You see all the people that love you
And now you are home



Anyhow, I sang this song to my old friend, because this was the moment the song was written for.  Then, I sang the first two verses from "Be Not Afraid."  What's a christian singing a catholic song to a muslim for?  Sounds like the beginning of a joke.  Well, last time I checked, the first 5 books of the old testament in a christian or catholic bible are also in the Qu'ran, so I tend to believe we have more in common than we think regarding the foundations of our faith in God.

God/Allah is all powerful
God/Allah loves us
God's/Allah's promises are rock solid
Following God/Allah's way is the path to Heaven beyond

Sound like pretty good pillars to build fellowship upon.


By this time, the son and uncle were back in the room.  I finished singing, and I played a little instrumental guitar, and then it was time to stop playing.  I knew that I do not come back on service till a week from now, and that this would probably be the last time I play for my wise old friend.  I chose my final key and final chord in that key very purposefully, and allowed my final chord to ring, sing, and float into every corner of the room and every cell of his body.

Death, you may be here, but you shall not take my friend in silence.  You shall take the music with you, and in doing so, it will make the trip easier for both of you.

I walked around to the side of the bed the wise old man was facing.  His head was craned to his right.  I touched his hands on his chest, and said, "I'll see you again my friend... Insha'Allah," never intending that it would be in this life.

With this, his eyes opened, rolled around a little and fixed on mine.  His face lit up like a fire cracker, with a smile stretching from ear to ear.  A soft, harmonious coo came from his chest, not unlike the sound my infant son makes when he is happy.  It is the sound we make when we are radiating happiness.  He rolled onto his back and lifted his head and beamed.  His son was there the day his dad taught me this phrase over a month ago, and he delighted in the moment.  I said, "See?  Never too old to teach a young man something new!"

The pride on the father's face... giving, teaching, transforming even on his deathbed.  Knowing while he still breathes, he makes a difference. He MATTERS.

As I walked past the son, I put my hand on his shoulder, and gave him every ounce of love and empathy I could.  I gently squeezed his shoulder, and through that squeeze I said, "My brother, I sat where you sit.  I felt what you feel.  I am with you."

Today, I got to be for him who Enya was for me.

Full Circle.

I love this family, and I hardly even know them.

I bet you can relate to that.

God night.


  1. Thanks for this, Tim. And thanks for you.
    I do not believe in God, but I do believe that everyone has their "perfect fit" - and you are the best example of this I have ever seen. You do, and are, EXACTLY what you were meant to do.

    And that is inspiring.

  2. Again, I say God is using you for the good of his children. What a gift you have and that you are using it...

  3. What an amazing story. Thanks for this, Tim.

  4. No words really, just pure awe. The world is a better place with you in it. That's all I gotta say.

  5. Really amazing. I'm an atheist but believe in the power of love. thank you for your work.

  6. good call on the tissue alert!
    Beautiful story.
    And he is right... God willing.

  7. What a gift--representative of God's love--at such an important time. Prowd of you using your gifts and talents to help others.

  8. What a beautiful story...thank you for sharing with us. Thank you also for doing what you do. You are there for people in such an amazing way...touching so many lives. Not a job just anyone can do...it takes someone so very special.

    Sending my love to all and sweet kisses for Ali and Julian.

    Denise WI

  9. Love this story.

    Still here, still reading & sending love from NC.

    Kim in Durham

  10. You are right- I love you guys even though I've never met you. Thanks Tim.

  11. Although, I am an agnostic...I still felt touched by your post. It's wonderful to see people like you in the world. :)

  12. What a wonderful story, thanks again for sharing. I would love to hear you sing "His love is Everlasting" I'm sure others would also.

  13. Hi Tim,

    I stumbled onto your blog a while back and have been a reader for while. This post made me just HAVE to comment. What a beautiful story. I work in specialty pediatrics and have been part of many families' stories...sometimes of hope and healing, sometimes of loss and healing. It's an amazing place to work...and it's amazing to know that like you, I was made to do this!

    -Nora, RN