The old band

Mom is sick.  A cancer holes her bones.  She has pain and fades.  She finds doctors and medicine.  She seeks solace in science.  But, she is no medico’s Mom.  There is no soul in sterile walls.  A syringe is only siren’s comfort.   She is our Mom.   The curtain calls.  Our play will mend.  It is time to get the old band back together.

There is Billy, banging hard on those drums.  He is tempo and measured steps.  Ellen’s voice holds words we share. Her song soothes.  Rich on that bass.  Hard cords, deep feeling.   Anger and power, laying down the beat.  Steve never could play a cord.  Too shy to raise his voice… but who would wire the amp? We have had so many fights over life’s art.  Now, we will bring familiar music to an unfamiliar opera.  We come together for Mom.

I remember Mom leaning at the kitchen door, looking into that cluttered garage.  Coffee in her hand, pained grimace on her face.  She loved the cacophony of sound, even when she did not like the melody.  Mom heard only the joy of her children.  We were breaking free, creating distance and finding life.  Changing old refrain, to new garish tune.  We would flee.  Leave that tight space behind. We were never closer.

Now we play ancient song with wise fingers, tired eyes, and jaded ears.    Cherished like yesteryear but strange as tomorrow.   The songs of adults played as if children.  The songs of children played by men.  Memory mixed with time creates unexpected harmony.  Once again, we break free and find life.

Our encore marks the moment.  Our creation history and future.   Replay cherished past to find hope and preserve it.   Carry forward memory and dreams.  Yesterday’s rhythm becomes tomorrow’s cadence.  Not the words, but the soul of song.   We remember lyrics and sing for the young.  And the new children listen.  Shake a tambourine … did we even have a tambourine?  The cherubs join the band.  Then, bored, anxious, exploding, they head out to the garage.

Mom is at that door, pained grimace on her lips.  Ellen’s voice is peace.  Rich’s power leads.   Coarse cords or ragged Chopsticks on the organ.  We heal Mom with our music.  Relieve her pain, and fear.  Mom will never be alone.  Embraced by family’s sound.  Getting that old band back together


  • Phyllis Chudnick
    Oh, how this brings back memories to me o how I tried to get a response from my mother who was unresponsive from a stroke. She was my accompanist so I played tapes of shows and concerts we had done together, hoping for some kind of response. There was none, but a tiny smile appeared. I felt our music was giving her some comfort and peace in her final days. Phyllis Chudnick
    • James Salwitz, MD
      It is so true how music can touch the heart. jcs
  • Cathy Pearl
    I must admit to being somewhat confused (chemobrain, or just dense?). If this is indeed your family you are talking about, first let me say I'm sorry. Second, and on this I am clear, music indeed does touch the heart, and heals the spirit. I have never figured out exactly how it does this, but I know that when my spirits need litfing, I head to my youtube account, where I have all my favorites saved. There are many, in all types of genre. And by the time I have had my fill, my soul is rejoicing, my spirit has lifted, and I am grateful.
    • James Salwitz, MD
      This as a poetic vision of the family experience of one of my patients. Music both of sound and of the heart does indeed heal. jcs
  • Hey Doc, how are you? It's been so long that I don't often think of what it was like going through cancer treatment, but a never give up spirit along with the support of family, friends and a great Doctor sure helped!
    • James Salwitz, MD
      Nice to hear from you. All is very well here. jcs

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