About 15 years ago, one of my friends went to Jamaica. I don’t still have a lot of relics from that time in my life, but I do have the Bob Marley coffee mug he brought back to me as a souvenir. One side of it has a gold-plated lion, and the other side is Marley’s face.
I didn’t know a whole lot about Marley when I got the mug, and I really still don’t. The person who gave it to me told me stories about his visit to the Bob Marley Museum and about how Marley died from a melanoma that started under the nail on his toe.
Years later when my now husband, Ben, and I were dating, Ben found the mug in my kitchen cabinet. He asked me if I was a big fan of Marley’s. I told him “No, not really” and he told me the same story about Marley’s toe.
When our daughter Ellie was born, she had an extended stay in the hospital to recover from heart surgery while learning to eat and breathe on her own. If we weren’t reading to her, she mostly just dozed and looked up at the mobile and garland we had hung from the light above her bed. Music is a big part of our household, and so Ben brought his guitar and a Bluetooth speaker from home so we could play music for her every day.
“I asked the doctors to put in orders for music therapy,” he told me one morning when I got there to trade off with him so he could go to work.
Later that day, the music therapist tapped the glass on the door. She had a guitar strapped to her back and a cart full of percussion instruments and toys. “Is Ellie up for some music today?” she asked.
Ellie didn’t smile a lot or wave her arms in those days, but when the therapist handed her the rain stick or the bells, it was obvious she enjoyed it. She would look around and smile or try to make noise while the therapist strummed the guitar and sang to her.
“Rise up this morning, smiled with the rising sun. Three little birds pitch by my doorstep, singing sweet songs of melodies pure and true, saying ‘This is my message to you,’” was always the last song she would sing.
Ellie looked so happy during music therapy, but I had to tune it all out. It was too much for me to handle. At that time, my brain was trying to keep distance from her because I was so worried that she was not going to make it. I thought that if I didn’t get too attached, it wouldn’t affect me as much if she were to die. This seemingly normal behavior from her was hope-giving, and I couldn’t afford to entertain hope.
One day Ben arrived right as the music therapist was leaving. “Ellie, have you been iron like a lion in Zion?” he asked her while kissing her on the forehead. That is what Ben always said to me when he pulled that coffee mug out of the cabinet, a reference to a Marley song.
“What are you talking about?” I asked him.
“You know, the music therapist. She always sings Bob Marley to Ellie. ‘Don’t worry ‘bout a thing. Cause every little thing is gonna be alright.’” he sang, finishing the song that I had tried to ignore from the therapist for weeks.
Ellie’s next cardiology appointment is on Wednesday of this week, and I have been grumpy and short-fused over it for a while. These appointments are never easy, but this one holds a lot of weight in what her, and our, future will be. I have been worrying about a lot of things.
Early this morning, I stumbled in to the kitchen in the dark and fumbled around for a mug. I poured my first cup of coffee and found my way to the couch. Just a few minutes before when my head had lifted off the pillow, I had the thought, “Here we go. Same sh!t, different day.” And so, cradling my coffee alone, I was feeling sorry for myself.
“I can’t start the day like this,” I thought. “You will never make it through the day with this attitude.”
I looked down at my cup and saw that gold-plated lion. I thought about all of those hope filled mornings in the hospital with the sunshine streaming through the windows and the smile on Ellie’s face when the therapist sang about the three little birds. Then I thought of my friend who gave me the mug, and the knack he has to always know just the right thing to say or do at just the right time.
For email delivery of Typically Not Typical, sign up here: