Music roused me from my first post-surgical stupor in the ICU. A wisp of a woman with flowing locks of golden hair sat behind a mahogany harp, pulling on strings made of silver light. Her eyes were closed.
I waited for her to finish before I croaked, “Who are you?”
“I play for the dying.”
“I’m dying?” I asked, wondering if angels did that sort of thing all the time.
“No! Oh God! Your husband asked me to play for you. He said you might like the music.”
That’s how I made the surreal and crucial discovery that I could actually manage my pain with music. I started with light doses and no understanding. A transistor radio from my father’s garage tuned to the classical station rested on my belly. The television in the corner blasted music videos at a volume that brought frequent scoldings from the night nurses. My own voice served as a guide, though I’m sure that to the untrained ear my moans sounded like nothing but whimpering. To me, however, they became divine mile markers for a journey into sound that managed my pain and possibly saved the life of my child.
I was released to hospice at home. Good women in my life transformed my living room into a healing wonderland, complete with a hospital bed centered under a collage of images on the ceiling. White tigers, swirling colors, and words like “heal” and “breathe” were always in my line of sight. I was fed organic meals prepared and delivered by friends and family. A nine-inch wound across my stomach had been stapled shut, and the same sort of surgical staples lined my back from top to bottom.