Red, Red, Robin, page 18: Is it ever too late for music? 

Margie’s gruff and gravely voice called out from her favorite corner where she carefully perched on the seat of her walker. Stooped and bent over, her arthritic hands were no longer able to hold the songbook she knew so well. It didn’t matter. Margie knew the words to her favorite song and so many others. She only called out the page number for the sake of the other residents at the assisted living home where she lived. 

I don’t suppose I should have favorites amongst the folks I sing with. But I’ll admit I do.  And Margie was one of them. Always interesting to talk to, always enthusiastic. And always ready with her request. 

One day as I arrived, the staff pulled me aside and told me “Margie is on her journey.” That’s nursing home talk for she’s dying. “You might want to go in and see her.” 

I took my guitar and went to Margie’s room. She lay on the bed with her eyes closed, looking small and tired. 

I said “Margie, it’s Mary Sue here to see you.” 

You’ll have to use your imagination to get the full effect of what happened next. With that oh so unique voice, Margie barked, rather matter of factly back at me “I’m dead.” 

I laughed and said “No, you’re not dead Margie.” 

I let that sink in for awhile and then said “I suppose we should sing Red Red Robin.” 

Margie agreed and I began to sing. 

After the song ended Margie took my hand and said “I’ll never forget you.” I told her I would always remember her too. I hugged and kissed her and said goodbye. 

Leaving the room, I heard the staff tell Margie that they had to move her into a wheelchair for a few minutes so they could put a special mattress on her bed. Apparently there are special mattresses for end of life journeys. 

I returned to the living room and greeted the other residents who had gathered to sing. I told them to sing out loud so Margie could hear us in her room around the corner. 

A few minutes into our sing along, I looked up and there was Margie being wheeled into the midst of our group. Ashley, a beloved staff member, and Margie’s granddaughter hovered around her, each offering her a chocolate milk shake.  Yes, two chocolate milk shakes. 

The next thing I knew, Margie was singing along. We sang Red Red Robin again. Ashley and the granddaughter stared at me in disbelief, as if to say “What’s going on?” 

I answered with a big smile and a slight shrug, “The power of music?” 

Margie did die. But not that day and not the next day or the day after that. She returned to having her meals with the other residents in the dining room. And it was there, during lunch one day about a week later, that Margie completed her journey. I don’t know if there were any chocolate milk shakes for lunch that day. I do know I’ll never forget Margie.