Saturday, March 29, 2008


Pete_Seeger, originally uploaded by guano.

Last night, I couldn't sleep. Maybe I'd been spoiled by three nights in my own bed. Or maybe as Lisa Kenney once wrote to me, night is just a particularly vulnerable time for people in the hospital.

Around eleven, my roommate, a young woman from Panama, got a call. It seemed her three year old son was having trouble sleeping, too. He needed his mother to sing to him to sleep, just like she always did.

And so she did. It turned out to be a long concert, as the boy continued to beg for one more song, not wanting to let go of the connection to his mother's voice.

I'm not sure how long it took for him to fall asleep, but I slipped off to the sound of her voice after about the third song.

Today, as I was watching the "Power of Song" a documentary about Pete Seeger on PBS, I smiled as I remembered the night before.

At the end of the documentary, Pete said we don't sing enough any more and it's a huge loss. People used to sing when they walked and when they built roads and bridges and when they cleaned their houses; and subtly they lifted up the world around them with their song--or comforted it, as a sick woman, singing to her child stilled and illuminated my hospital room last night.

I've never had a voice as strong as the man I heard singing "Good Morning Heartache" last week, or as light and high as my roommate's, and I can't play the banjo like Pete Seeger. But I can tell you one thing; I will leave this hospital (hopefully
tomorrow) determined to sing my song and to sing it with all the force I have in me.


Patry Francis said...
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People in the Sun said...

One minute I was flipping channels in the middle of the night, trying to find some inane channel so I could get back to sleep after the baby woke me up, and the next minute I was engrossed in this documentary. What for many of us seems like an impossible task (living life the right way) comes easily to him. He stands by his principals and he sings whenever there's a song playing in his head. Pretty simple, really. Good luck.

Alex S said...

Patry, yet another sharing from you that reminds me to stay awake and live and even to sing! I have been making sure to listen to music each and every day, something I love that I somehow got out of the habit of for way too long. (Harry Chapin is m y personal favorite!) How are you today? I am thinking of you and sending you love and thoughts and prayers that you are back in your own bed very soon. Is there somewhere there we can send you real mail too? If so, please let me know at - xoxoxoxo Sending you a big hug! I'm thinking of you often.

Myfanwy Collins said...

Awww, how lovely to fall asleep to her songs. I adore Pete Seeger. Do you know there is a petition for a Nobel Peace Prize for him? here is the link:

Take care, Patry! Hope you are home in your own bed soon. I will think of you when I sing my baby songs tonight.

Patry Francis said...

people in the sun: You nailed it. How incredible it is to witness someone simply "living the right way."

alex: Llistening to music every day could improve any life. Singing and dancing, too! I'm feeling pretty strong today--strong enough to hope I'll be home tomorrow.

Myf: I'm going to check out that petition! Meanwhile, it's nice to think of you singing your baby songs.

Anonymous said...

We started listening to music again during dinner the last couple of years, trying to bring more music into our lives again. We do warble our way through some Christmas carols in winter, but it is so rare to hear people singing on their own nowadays - though so lovely when you do hear it - just hearing someone whistling or humming nowadays, can make me smile. It reminds me of how my mom used to hum while hanging out the clothes, or how my grandpa and uncles whistled while they worked.

Thank you for the reminder that not everyone has to be the next 'American Idol,' in order to enjoy singing, or feel the comfort and connection in being sung to...

Though I'm sorry to hear you're back in a hospital bed, I'm glad you found some sweet music there to lull you to sleep. I pray your roommate will be singing to her little one soon, in person - and most of all, that you'll be sleeping in your own bed again soon, Patry - while finding much blissful joy to sing about. ((Hugs))

Anonymous said...

i love pete seeger!

yes. sing your song out! we'll all be listening!

Dale said...


rdl said...

and maybe some dancin too!!

robin andrea said...

A good song sung from the heart is like an elixir. I hope you are home in your own bed soon, and hearing your favorite songs. Wishing you all the comforts in the world, Patry, and then some.

Patry Francis said...

Tinker: I like your plan to listen to music with dinner. Lately, we've been listening to the news-- a good way to get indigestion. Just ONE of the things I plan to change about my life when I get home! Here's to singing as we hang our clothes.

kyra: I'm a long time fan, but the documentary reminded me that I need to get some of his CDs.

Dale: Sing it out!

R: Oh yes, definitely soon as I can walk a little better.

Larramie said...

A "little night music" soothes more than just a baby. Be well, Patry, and sweet dreams.

Patry Francis said...

Robin: An elixir--yes! One reason I don't sing much is that I don't know the words to many songs. My new project is to learn a song a week--until I drive my poor unsuspecting family crazy.

Larramie: Isn't it wonderful that even newborns respond to the music of the human voice? But you're so right: we all need a lullabye at one time or another.

Becca said...

I can certainly attest to the power of song, and not just because I'm a musician. I always try to convince people to add music to their lives in some way - it helps soothe the heartache and multiply the joys of life.

Patry, I hope you get home soon and can sing your own song in your own bed. I'm keeping you in my daily prayers.

steve on the slow train said...

I used to sing to my children when they were little. My oldest daughter, Anne, was like your roommate's boy, and would want one song after another. I grew up listening to Burl Ives recordings on scratchy 78s, and I sang her songs like "Little Mohee," "Springfield Mountain," and "I Know My Love." And I remember my father singing to me--I liked "On Top of Old Smokey," because it mentioned "the cross-ties on the railroad."

Thank you for helping me recall these wonderful memories. I pray that the cancer is now in remission, and that you can be released from the hospital soon,.

Kay Cooke said...

Dear Patry, you continue to file the items from your hospital bed - it amazes me. And the writing is stunning. Thank you. You inspire me. Hoping and praying for you too.

Sky said...

i remember my father whistling while he worked in the yard or on a project. i tried but never was successful. i pulled the air in; could not push it out to make music. as a child i sat in my swing in the backyard and sang for hours at a time, swaying back and forth. i serenaded the neighborhood. yes, there really is something life affirming about music and song.

i wonder why i abandoned it long ago? i must give this some thought.

i am sorry you are back in the hospital but glad to hear you are likely heading home sunday. i hope you will soon be taking spring walks on the beach, finding new treasures from the sea, and playing with that marvelous baby with the big, beautiful eyes!

big hugs, patry, and many good wishes for renewed health and strength.xox

Patry Francis said...

becca: I've always envied musicians. Not only can you create music wherever you go; but it's also so communal. Pete Seeger is an example of how much can be accomplished/changed by inspiring others to sing along with your dreams and verses.

Steve: Those are great songs. It makes me smile to think of you singing them to your children. It's also interesting to hear that the railroad was calling to you ever since you were a boy.

chiefbiscuit: Thanks for continuing to visit. As you probably know, hospital rooms can be lonely places with lots of blank hours--even in the best of circumstances.

Sky: I can see vividly that little girl on her swing, belting out her song to the world. In your own way, of course, you're still singing. Thanks for the good thoughts. It's Sunday and I haven't seen the doctor yet, but I'm already plotting my escape...Hugs to you and your husband, too!

i beati said...

I have a post yesterday about song - oh yes you sing and I will sing with you sandynmzivoay

Patry Francis said...

i beati: I just did my singing in the empty hallway. I was surprised that I knew almost all the words to "If I had a hammer..."

Anonymous said...

. . . i was just thinking about this very thing a few weeks ago . . . i do a sort of "singing" in the shamanic healing sessions i do with folks and it totally changes the energy in the room. and folks can hear it outside of the room, too, and comment about it. whenever one of the women i share the holistic center with mentions it, i always apologize for the noise, hoping i don't infringe on the sessions they are doing but they always cut me off and say, oh no, it's amazing . . . and i know it isn't about having an amazing voice, but just that someone is singing from their heart. you're so right patry - we just don't get to hear heartfelt singing much anymore . . . (ps - i am breaking into song right now and the kitties seem to enjoy it :)

Gary Boyd said...

I don't generally sing out loud but I do drive my wife crazy as I go through life humming to the song in my head...

Keep your song playing out loud Patry, I'll hum along.

♥ N o v a said...

I've always wanted to sing out loud, but don't, because I hate the sound of my voice. The only who has heard me sing is my one year old daughter, and to her, I probably sound like Barbara Streisand. But you're right: Singing and song can really lift someone's spirits. I hope the whole world can hear you sing as you're leaving the hospital. It would be a beautiful sound indeed.

Anonymous said...

A Mary Chapin Carpenter song that will make everything okay if you sing along with it.

If you ever need to hear a voice in the middle of the night
When it seems to black outside that you can't remember light
Ever shone on you or the ones you love in this or another lifetime
And the voice you need to hear is the true and the trusted kind
With a soft, familiar rhythm in these swirling, unsure times
When the waves are lapping in and you're not sure you can swim
Well here's the lifeline
If you ever need to feel a hand take up your own
When you least expect but want it more than you've ever known
Baby here's that hand and baby here's my voice that's calling
This is love, all it ever was and will be
This is love

Patry Francis said...

dating god: Yes, singing changes energy in powerful ways. I think we need to begin a campaign to create more singing! Starting here. Starting now--with you and me and your cats.

Gary: When I get a song stuck in my head, it's usually from an ad--and frequently, I don't even like it. Still,
I think that humming is good--a kind of natural release.

nova san: Don't let your voice stop you! I have a terrible singing voice. But my babies still responded to the sound of it and I haven't shattered any windows yet.

Patry Francis said...

m: Thank you for leaving such beautiful lyrics here. I'm going to look for that song on line.

Anonymous said...

Music is the speech of the soul don't you think? How wonderfully soothing to drift to sleep to the sound of a Mother's love. Blessings and Light Patry.

Kurt Kuden said...
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Kurt Kuden said...

i like karaoke like crazy.. especially after big exams..

u should go for karaoke sometimes hehe

i like ur blog so much

Anonymous said...

Yes, Patry! I'll picture you singing your way out of there. :)

Let us know what song (or songs) were your anthems!

Sometimes I think we need theme songs at these points in our lives. Songs that really get us going and up and positive. I'm going to go think of mine.

P.S. Thanks so much for dropping by my blog yesterday!

billie said...

Haven't been by in a few weeks and am sitting here catching up on your posts. Such poignant observations - and the images are so compelling as well.

Sending good thoughts and white light.

Oh - I sing in the car and to my horses in the mornings when I feed them breakfast. I'm not normally a bold singer but I really belt it out in the barn. :)

LitPark said...

Love that story and your writing. Love how you notice the people around you.

I didn't realize you had to go to the hospital again. Thinking all good things for you so you can be home soon, walking the dog, watching the first flowers come up.


Bitterroot said...

I've been following your story since discovering your blog recently, and I'd just like to say that I find you and your writing inspiring. Please keep posting your observations.

floots said...

sing for yourself and sing to the world patry
i'll be listening (over my own croaky harmonies) :)
thank you

James Goodman said...

Ah, the world could definately benefit from more music. Thanks for sharing such a moving moment.

Heidi the Hick said...

I agree- we don't sing enough anymore. I grew up in a family that held singing in very high importance. My Dad's father was a Mennonite pastor, and once a month we ALL got together. We'd sing grace before we ate, we'd sing a few songs after, or at least the adults did, while we kids goofed off.

There are so many of us now, all living in different places, and only get all together once a year. We still sing. I don't have a single hymn memorized but it comes back little by little.

This is a good reminder, and timely! On Saturday night we got together with friends, got our guitars, and sang! It was Zeppelin and Sabbath, but it was singing, and it felt great!

Hope you read this from the comfort of your own home. Take care.

Mary Ann said...

I'd forgotten about the simple beauty of a lullaby.

Tish Cohen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
RobinSlick said...

Oh man, I did not know you were back in the hospital but I like the news that you may be released tomorrow. Gah! This sucks so bad, Patry -- I hope this is finally the end of your in-patient days and you can spend the rest of your recovery in your own home/bed.

I watched the Seeger show, too, and was mesmerized. And um, I can attest first hand to the power of saved my husband's life and via our mutual love of song and genetics, gave us two extraordinary kids who feel the same.

To quote the late, great Frank Zappa: Music is the best

Tish Cohen said...

One of my kids is still "free" enough that he walks around singing with abandon. He's a great kid, completely tone deaf. To me, his singing is the very sweetest sound on earth.

I'm so sorry to hear you were admitted again. I hope you didn't go under the knife again. And if you did, I pray you're well healed by now...


Lisa said...

Yes to more singing! Why don't we do it more often? When I was a kid, my family sang all the time. My mother was especially enamored of show tunes, my grandfather used to drink whiskey with his friend Mike Dobbins from "Southie" and they sang Irish songs, my best friend and I used to sing every Beatles song ever written, one after the other and on one of our first overnights together, Scott and I lay awake until three in the morning singing every Motown song we could think of. We're too self-conscious. There's nothing that puts a smile on my face faster than running into a fellow shopper who is singing along to the music playing in the grocery store. Raise your voice! It's good for your soul. xo :)

Patry Francis said...

kurt: I've never done it, but I just might have to try karaoke. Thanks for your generous comment.

kg: Just before I left the hospital, I heard a singer (whose identity I didn't catch) singing a particularly jazzy version of "He's Got the Whole World in His hands," so that became my traveling anthem. (I think the teenage volunteer who pushed my wheelchair into the bright sun thought I was crazy.)

Billie: Thanks for coming back and sharing your white light.

litpark: Love your comments! Hope all is going well with the edits.

bitterroot: Thank you, and welcome to my blog!

floots: If your croaky harmonies are half as good as your poems, I'd love to hear them!

James: More music for all! Thanks for your visits.

Heidi: Singing in church is a powerful part of the religious and community experience. We need more of that, too! (And louder!)

mary ann: We all need a lullabye now and then. I was lucky to get one inadvertantly.

robin: You have definitely done your share to spread the love and joy of music. Every time I read your blog, I'm hungry for it!

Tish: Love the new icon! Also love the idea of the tone deaf son happily belting out his song. Unfortunately, I didn't escape the third major surgery in as many weeks. (Pretty crazy, isn't it?) But at least I'm home beginning the healing process. Love to you.

Anonymous said...

Oh, poor Patry! Did you have to go back to the hospital? That sucks. I'm glad you're out now, and I hope you're out for good because they got it all, all the complications are over, and now it's just going to be healing and living.

I often sing, a legacy of my mother, but I find I shut right up as soon as I catch sight of another person. Still, I do so love to hear others singing, at work, or just going about their business.

How sweet that you had a stranger to sing you to sleep on such a tough night. It almost makes me rethink the value of random roommates when one has to be stuck in a hospital. I think I'd still prefer having a private room most of the time, but you sure have shown us the gift side.

Nicole said...

Gorgeous, Patry. Just gorgeous. Don't know ya, but I love ya.


Patry Francis said...

Lisa: You hit the nail on the head: we're too self-conscious. It's plagued me a lot in the past, but not anymore. Here's to Motown (my favorite) and the Beatles--and a few Irish songs from Southie thrown in for good measure!

Sara: The cancer prognosis is excellent; it's the damn complications that have been killing me! But now I'm enjoying the wonders of home as never before. I know you understand. xxx

Nicole: We may have never met, but when we share thoughts as we do on a blog, I think we DO know each other. Thanks for being here and for raising your voice

Fred Garber said...


Sustenance Scout said...

My girls break into spontaneous singing when they're playing together. It's one of the loveliest sounds I've ever heard. I also treasure the memory of my mother singing Somewhere Over the Rainbow while washing dishes alone in the kitchen when I was a girl. And most of my high school buddies were band kids who could sing in harmony so we belted out everything along with the radio while driving around town dying for something to do. Two of my friends, Steve and Jimmy, both fantastic musicians, drove off one late summer night after dropping me at home singing Mississippi Moon with the windows wide open. That remains one of my favorite memories from my teen years. See what you trigger, Patry!! K.

Anonymous said...

Hi Patry,
This post reminded me of when I first started jogging along the seawall in Vancouver. There was this man who used to walk slowly along the same route, belting out beautiful opera, not begging for a dime. His voice was incredible and always inspired me to keep on chugging.

My husband and I recently started taking turns buying a new CD of the month. Our collection got a little rusty since we started having babies. This month I was shocked to find that Bruce Springsteen still sounds good!

Peace and healing to you...

Maryanne Stahl said...

I have long felt and sometimes said that adults don't sing or dance enough. I thoroughly believe that all humans need to express themselves through song and movement, but we're too self-conscious, too busy, too serious.

I will sing today, Patry, and think of you.

Anonymous said...

Patry, this post and the succeeding one put some starch in my spirit. Your roommate is a hero. Thank you very much.

Sandra Cormier said...

I sing while I wash the dishes, as my mother did, and her mother too.

I can't imagine a world without song. You can hear a song in everything - birds, surf, the wind whispering through long grass. Even thunder.

I just finished Therese's book and I'm starting yours now.

patti said...

I love to sing out loud and always do so around my home. I always sang my children to sleep and can relate to the mother you shared a room with. I also sing (a little self-consciously) in the supermarket along with the piped music. I always want to 'really sing out loud', but know I would get more than strange looks! It is sad, as music and song is so reviving and good for the soul. I hope you can sing your song loud and true, you deserve it!

Sarah J Clark said...

Good for you! Best wishes Patry.