Friday, April 16, 2021

A Gong and an Angel

 The gong resounded. Another person had finished infusions. Dozens of people clapped despite the IVs in their arms, and I’m sure most of us smiled under our masks. BUT...I had to wonder if anyone else feels the same way I do: that I might never get to hit the gong—that I might never be done with stupid infusions—that I might never...get...better. I suddenly wanted to pick up the mallet and go hit it hundreds of times just to say I have. But I’m not a two-year-old, so I didn’t.

I also kept myself from saying any of this out loud. My mother-in-law sat beside me as medicine dripped directly into my veins. And we really were having the best time visiting and laughing; I didn’t need to mar that with a sob story. 

A woman near us spoke to a nurse, “He’s awfully sad. He needs to do this.”

My ears perked with interest! Who was sad? Who needed to do what?! Then I heard the strangest thing. A man’s voice began singing songs that I remembered from childhood — spiritual songs that are hard to forget.

And as he quietly sang “How Great Thou Art,” I suddenly wanted to sing with him — this faceless man who sat in another cubicle — and the desire mounted stronger than almost anything in the world.

But it seemed pretty embarrassing to sing in front of my mother-in-law AND in front of the more than 50 other people in the room. Sure they couldn’t see me in my cubicle, but they would hear me.

“I’ll be right back,” my mother-in-law said as if hearing my thoughts, and when she walked away the man started singing one of my favorite songs in the whole world.

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty.”

I slammed my mouth shut. I’m not even religious anymore. I go to church and I love God with all of my heart, but I don’t believe most of the things they teach. And yet, I could not control myself. I breathed deeply. I didn’t need to sing with this poor man. Why was the desire overpowering?

“Holy,” my voice joined his. “Holy, hoooooly...” the harmony floated atop his deep baritone—matching perfectly in thirds. He must’ve heard me because his voice swelled with strength. He’d been shaky and scared at one point, but now his song grew strong and majestic.

“Hooooolllly, holy, holy,” the words just flowed. And as we got louder everyone in the room quieted and simply listened to a moment that will always resonate within my soul.

We sang several verses and as much as it had grown, it finally came to a quiet, beautiful close.

When we finished, a woman said, “Did you... Did you...hear that voice singing with you?”

“You heard it too?” the man asked, sounding dumbfounded.

And even though we’re not supposed to bother other patients, I grabbed my IV stand, stood from my chair, and peeked over my cubicle. “It was me!” I said, almost giggling.

A stunning girl of about 20 stared at me with the widest eyes. Her dark skin glowed perfectly, and I knew she beamed under her mask. “That was amazing you started singing too. I can’t believe you knew the words.”

“Thanks for letting me join in. Hang in there, you two. This isn’t easy!” And although I couldn’t see the man from my angle, I sat down and watched as my mother-in-law returned to the room.

“I sang with him!” I said. “It was awesome!”

My mother-in-law laughed. She’s the sweetest woman, so full of love even though I’m the most random person ever.

The singer and his guest must’ve left soon after because a couple of the nurses came over to me and said, “That man was so sad and scared. His daughter said singing always makes him feel better. And what you both did… Well that is one of the neatest things we’ve had happen in here.”

“I couldn’t help myself.” Then I followed with, “But I think next time you guys need to join in!”

“I really wanted to, but I didn’t know the words. And then I realized, nobody wants to hear me sing!” one of the nurses said, laughing.

“I do! So, I want you guys to get ready for it. I’ll be back in three weeks. But while all of you are singing, I get to play the gong!” I could just see myself going crazy with the gong, like it’s Christopher Walken’s famous cowbell!

So, it’s probably my favorite memory from this crappy cancer business—so far anyway: the time I got to sing with a perfect stranger who found some unexpected strength in the infusion unit. Oh and it helped that people actually thought someone like me was a real, LIVE angel! 🀣 “It was me!” πŸ’œπŸ’œπŸ’œ


  1. After Errol died, I invented a new phrase "sad-smilig," which of course means smiling through my tears. That's what happened as I read this maginificent post. Thank you, Elisa, for sharing this.

    1. I’ll remember that. Lately (especially) I’ve had days when I can really relate to that.