Posted by: Ken Wheatley | March 12, 2009

Unexpected salve

There’s a beautiful grand piano in the lobby of the Thornton hospital and a young woman volunteer was playing classical music while I was waiting for Sheila to emerge from the recovery room earlier today.

An elderly frail-looking gentleman was sitting a few couches over from me, and he asked the pianist if she could play “Happy Birthday” for a friend of his that he had called on his cellphone. 

She attempted the song but surprisingly wasn’t doing very well, so he motioned for her to allow him to play. Considering how slowly she rose from the bench it was obvious that she wasn’t too thrilled. He lifted his frame from the couch and settled on the bench. What followed literally brought all foot traffic and conversation in the large atrium lobby to a standstill. People on the upper floors were leaning over the railings. People who had been talking on cellphones dropped their arms to their sides.

I didn’t recognize the man and for all I know he is a famous musician, but for at least 5 minutes he had complete command of that piano. He played a full bodied jazz rendition of “Happy Birthday” unlike anything I’ve ever heard before. The music completely filled the atrium. It was absolutely wonderful. Breathtaking, actually. In those brief five minutes he momentarily transformed that hospital into a fantastic concert hall and lifted everyone’s spirits.

When he finished, he slowly stood up, picked up the cellphone and tipped his hat as he walked away while people, including me, applauded. What a nice, and much needed emotional break that was.

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