I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. (Psalm 40:1)
He lay in his bed. He could not move, and he became steadily more “paralyzed” and stoic. The aging African-American choir director was admitted to the Jerry L. Pettis Memorial Veterans Affairs Medical Center for his progressive paralysis and an urgent stroke work up. I was a junior medical student at the time and was assigned to his case. All the testing we performed, the endless imaging and other work, showed minimal abnormalities. We could find no reason for his paralysis, except, quite likely, somatization.
After several days in the hospital, I began to uncover his story from his wife. he had not spoken to our medical team in a few days now. His wife relayed the fact that he had multiple stressful triggers, and was possibly beginning to be tired of not only directing the choir, but playing the piano and organ for the group as well. She was confident, however, that he loved his choir and his church.
One day, as he was lying motionless in bed, just staring up, I had an idea. At the time, there was a popular movie out called The preacher’s wife. The soundtrack had some wonderful gospel tunes. I brought the CD and a CD player to his bedside one day after rounds. I told him I wanted to play him a song or two. He didn’t look at me or acknowledge my words, the same reaction as every other day. I put the headphones on his head and proceeded to play him a song. The soloist began the beautiful melody in a clear tone with the piano:
“I love the Lord,
He heard my cry
and pitied every groan.
Long as I live, and troubles rise
I’ll hasten to His throne,
I’ll hasten to His throne.”
For the first time, his eyes no longer stared; they closed. And with the next verse, and the full gospel choir backing the soloist, the same words continued again. Then it started. The tears began to roll down his face, and he began to cry. This was the first “break” we’d had with this gentleman since he had arrived in the hospital a few days before. His wife began to cry also, and so did I. It was at that moment, I believe, that the healing began. He had not responded to anything before, after all the medical team had said and done. That song spoke to him in a way that we could not. The words of understanding and compassionate God in a song were what had made the difference for him. I’ll never forget that moment.
– Traci Williams, LLUSM class of 1997