“Did you hear the ‘59 sound coming through on Grandmama’s radio?
Did you hear the rattling chains in the hospital walls?
Did you hear the old gospel choir when they came to carry you over?
Did you hear your favorite song one last time?”
-The ‘59 Sound – the Gaslight Anthem
Music & Lyrics written by Brian Fallon, Alex Rosamilla, Alex Levine, & Benny Horowitz
As appears on the album “The ‘59 Sound,” released on SideOneDummy Records
Matthew was sick. Sick sick. Matthew was the kind of sick you couldn’t sleep off, or go to work in spite of better judgment in regards to your own health, or even drown in cheap booze to kill the germs according to some wive’s tale passed down along the generations of Central Pennsylvania mountain people. Matthew was sick and he wasn’t getting better. A man that had once been built sturdy enough to earn him the nickname “Moose” had become frail and sickly. The curly locks his wife had loved had surrendered to a shorn scalp, with little whisps of prematurely gray hair remaining. Truly, he’d been sapped of the strength to be himself, and that’s what broke my heart the most about Matthew being sick.
Treatments were unsuccessful and Matthew decided he wanted to pass at home.
You never know when you are going to spend your last moments with someone. Far too often we receive news of someone’s untimely passing and we feel robbed of the moments to say goodbye. I don’t know what’s worse, having the chance to tell someone you’ll see them on the other side taken from you, or having to mourn someone while they are still alive. For weeks, I watched a family’s hope their husband and father would recover fade. In the last few days, I watched that hope disintegrate into sorrow and despair. People who have worked in nursing homes and hospitals will tell you they just know when someone is going to pass; I don’t possess such clairvoyance. The best I could do was try to be present, to be as much of a comfort as possible. Considering my relationship with that family now, I suppose I failed miserably.
Sitting at Matthew’s bedside, I remembered the lyrics to my favorite Gaslight Anthem song, “The ‘59 Sound,” a song about a life ending long before it was time for them to go. The line that stood out to me the most was “did you get to hear your favorite song one last time?” Many years before I was sitting at his bedside, Matthew told me in passing that his favorite song was “Ramble On” by Led Zeppelin. I have no idea if Matthew could understand what was going on around him through the haze of pain management, but I played the song. Someday, when it’s my time to go, I hope someone is so considerate to make sure I hear my favorite song one last time. Playing that song was the one thing I could do with the certainty time was running out.
Matthew passed a day or two later, peacefully, in his sleep. He was outlived by his mother-in-law, as he always said would happen.