The past nineteen days I have spent with my father in the hospital I have been serenaded by the song of cancer. The bleeps of his monitor, the whirl of his feeding tube, the bubbling of the oxygen line, the alarms on his IV, the sounds of the suction machine clearing his airway, the elevator's ding outside his room. Dad's constant chants, his malignant melody, the easy sounds to hear. Strange as it may seem, I have come to appreciate this anthem. For I know as long as I hear these notes Dad is holding his own, he is still here. No matter how much I hate the tune, I know it is much better than the song of silence that awaits me. For now, I cherish his lullaby.
The harshest refrains are the echoes that resonate through the halls at night. They breach the silence of sleep. The chorus of urgency is so loud, so constant it causes me to stop whatever I am doing to pray. The ward's bewitching waltz; cries of pain, alarms alerting nurses of a patient in need, deafening code blues, and the swift shoof of shoes as they rush to divert darkness' dance partner. Attempt to save the song for one more day.
There are sad ditties as well, the melancholy psalm of despair that tears at my soul and causes me to weep for the unknown person. The sobs of a patient a few doors down. He cries from loneliness every night. He longs for his son to visit. His chorus never changes, please God. His is one of many falsettos released from the open doors. They reverberate from room to rotunda. The intonations of pleas pierce the middle eight and change the composition.
I have learned there is a certain rhythm to tears. Everyone cries in beat as they stand in the hallway, gather their courage to call family members, disclose the diagnosis is cancer. The vagueness in their voice, the uncertainty of fate, solicitation for prayers, a lyric I have lived. They are at the beginning of the song, the first stanza of cancer. Christened the new frontmen in the fight; surrounded by those who await the closing curtain, pray for one more bridge, one last chorus. The crescendo of confusion and desperation, sung in rounds, fills the theater, circles the heart and submerges the soul. No mater, they continue to play, hope for harmony between life and death.
The opera that rages deeps and cuts like no other, the heartache of the final farewell. The last verse written. The cry is a note unlike any other. When the anguished aria is sung, there is silence in the ward. A sound everyone recognizes and fears. The final lyric is the heartache that we all must face. It is life's ending hymn that none of us are ever prepared to sing. We understand once the final note is sung, there is no encore, the ballad, the battle, is finally over.