While working in a local ICU, one of the nurses approaching me with an all too familiar expression on his face. He waved me over to his station and asked if I could play for the family of a young cardiac patient who was having all life saving measures suspended. While we walked to the patient’s room, he told me that they expected the patient to live only a few minutes more.
I entered the patient’s room and was introduced to the patient’s family. I began playing softly as I quietly moved toward the patient’s bedside. Techs and nurses were removing the patient’s telemetry leads, IVs and oxygen. I could see no signs of life in the patient; no shallow breathing, no pulse visible in Carotid artery. His lips and fingers were blue and his face was ashen. The room was nearly silent except for the droning, suspended arpeggios from my guitar and the wistful weeping of the patient’s father, who was holding his son’s hand.
As the nurse had predicted, the patient had passed quickly. I then began playing a soulful instrumental medley of Somewhere Over the Rainbow, You’ll Never Walk Alone and Bridge Over Troubled Water. Soon, every eye in the room was filled with tears. I played only for a few more minutes, then told the parents how sorry I was for their loss and thanked them for allowing me the privilege of serving them.
As I left, I wondered about the effectiveness of my efforts. I was too late to comfort the patient and did not sense that my music had comforted the family. It was heart wrenching for everyone.
Later, as I was finishing my rounds, I saw the hospital chaplain as I was leaving the unit. He thanked me for playing and added how a few staff members had told him how my music had helped them cope with the pain of losing this patient. He said, “Your music was able to comfort them where words simply could not.”
As I left, I was reminded how we may never know how our acts of kindness will be received. We should not be concerned with how others may respond. We should freely share the gifts and talents that we have been given and shouldn’t be concerned with how others respond. We may never know how we impact those we meet. But one day, I am sure we will be surprised how Love touched the lives of those we met along the way.