Song of Healing

 

Over the din of the tea and medicine trolleys, life-giving machines and chatter comes the music. Margaret has waited to hear it all morning, for the low velvety tones to fly over the unforgiving bright lights of the ward and soothe her away to a more peaceful place.

“Sana Sana cuelito de rana...Si no Sana hoy, Sana Manana...Sana Sana cuelito de rana...” Before the singer, Lucia, is close to Margaret her chant is working itss magic. Somewhere in between the morning tea run and the twice daily ritual inspection by the doctors is this expectant time, when the new auxiliary nurse sings her healing song from home to her charges as she winds her way between the beds, smoothing, smoothing, folding the hospital corners, inspecting the drips, checking how hot or cold the women are. Don't stop singing, Margaret thinks, sing your way over to me. Please.

A long time Margaret has been here, maybe months now. Quite despite her own wishes, her body has taken on an uncharacteristic stubbornness in the face of defeat and nobody has been quite sure what to do with her other than to let her be, here, in this bed, in 'as much comfort as possible'. Most of the day is spent with eyes tightly closed against the sharp light from the windows, which reveal nothing but another set of identical wards and concrete facings staring in at her. The pain comes and goes, giant tidal waves of tension and cramping that she has learned to ride with, up and down, no fighting. Fighting is futile, but then she has always thought so. It leads to lost energy, and to no peace at all. Lucia has provided Margaret with her last piece of determination, her last reason to summon up conversation. This song is a rhyme about a little frog who needs to get well, an old rhyme Lucia was sung herself as an infant. Closing her eyes, Margaret pictured herself as a young woman, homesick in a strange country, singing songs like these to her young charges in an unfamilar tongue. Lucia had been delighted and also embarrassed to have someone who understood her song. Margaret can't remember what she was sung as an infant when unwell, but she thinks someone must have done this for her, if she could only remember.

Margaret knows her own daughter will come today – time means very little in this place, but her strained, drawn girl, now a mother herself nearing retirement, will appear and sit by her bed, reminding her of the way her pain has spread out around her until it has enclosed the people she has nurtured her whole life. But today is another day. There is a fresh peace to be found in today, if only that beautiful singing voice would finally reach her and it can be her turn for relief.

Margaret can see Lucia's soft brown shoes, slipped on to light feet, shifting around under her neighbours' standing curtains. Once, back at home as a working woman, she performed services like this for others, still young enough to think that her own turn to be old, with papery, translucent skin and brittle bones was light years away. She danced and sang and tried to smooth the pain away. Hurry up, she thinks. It's building, it's at the crescendo of the wave. Her hands tighten against the side rails of her bed.

At last, the dark, shining eyes and onyx hair peer round the curtain. “Buenos dias Mrs Fortune – it is time, yes?' 'Si, Lucia, it is time.' She lies back into the freshly puffed pillows and breathes, as the gorgeous injection of pure relief is administered. Peace.

 

Vicky Todd

 

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