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The Arts Help Us Heal

Story from a Performer

From The Toughest Gig:

“She was beautiful. Even though treatment had robbed her of her hair, it was obvious from her delicate cheekbones, olive skin, and perfect teeth that she had been a very pretty young woman. Her closed eyes were frozen in the grimace of slow, lasting pain. She was also disconnected from oxygen, IV’s, and monitors- literally, her last connections to this world. I wondered what kind of tough decisions her mother had made in the previous days.

Emotionally unready to sing, I decided to play a melody, “Home Sweet Home,” a simple tune from the 1800’s with a fitting title for the final journey. We were forbidden to get close to very ill patients, but I got as close as I could without touching her and began to play slowly, unsure whether she could even hear me. The young lady curled up into a fetal position and began to rock back and forth. She could hear me.

Everything that I had ever thought was important to me faded from existence. For the first time in my life, I knew what it felt like to be a shaman, a priest, a messenger of God, summoning up all the joy, beauty, and humanity that I could manage and bringing it to people who needed it more than anyone else in the world. I was smiling and crying at the same time.

No higher honor could be bestowed on any musician; no tougher gig ever existed. On a beautiful spring morning, I left that room, carrying a lesson in the power of music. Now, even when I’m playing to a crowded bar or a coffeehouse, I try to remember that I have no idea what someone in that room is going through. Perhaps a mother is there, just back from sitting in the hospital with her beautiful, dying daughter.

Music can be great fun for a night out on the town, but it can also be like water for a lost soul, wandering in a desert of heartache. About once a month, I return to the hospital to visit patients and share the gift of music. I’ll never forget the last musical rites of that beautiful young woman and one of the greatest rewards of my career.”

– Jonathan Byrd, DooR to DooR Performer

Thank You, Supporters!

Guy B. Phillips Middle School, Drama Department, Robbie Nadas
Children’s Promise Program of NC Children’s Hospital
The Medical Foundation of North Carolina, Inc.
The Jacob K. and Marian B. Javits Foundation
UNC Hospitals Volunteer Association
The Maola Foundation for Children  
Orange County Arts Commission
Mary Duke Biddle Foundation
North Carolina Arts Council
Ride Again Productions
Carla and Josh Javits
Strowd Roses, Inc.
UNC Health Care
AndiSites Inc.

Testimonials

Feeling great
Still feeling great because he gave me a compliment.
We enjoyed you coming
It was the most fun I had at [hospital] school in a long time….Please come back soon, we enjoyed you coming.
Cheer patients
Wonderful--Should be scheduled on a regular basis to cheer patients.
Please come more often
I love this. Please come more often. When they are here, my feet don't even hurt as much!
Great way to relax
This was a great way to relax a patient.
Before: Low, in pain
After: spirits up, entertained, Great