Walking into the auditorium I honestly didn’t know what to expect. The event was billed as an evening with a musician who had been physically healed, in part, by music and has since helped others to heal through the sharing of his gift of music.
I didn’t know Andrew, but I soon became intrigued by his story. A tumor, initially thought to be cancerous was actually benign. However, the celebration quickly subsided as Andrew’s body began to shut down from an allergic anaphylactic shock while recovering from his surgery. For several days he vacillated between life and death, comatose in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit at New York’s Mount Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center. Sensing Andrew had perhaps lost his desire to live, out of fear and desperation his wife Wendy turned to the one thing she thought could possibly save her husband.
Andrew Schulman is a professional guitarist. Music has been his life-long passion, which is evident as you listen to this master evoke such spiritually soulful tones from his eight-stringed guitar. With all else simply keeping him alive yet not making him any better, Wendy placed an earbud from her husband’s iPod into his left ear and soon Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion” began slowly rejuvenating his spirit. After 30 minutes of Bach, Andrew’s blood pressure, the critical component of his survival, had normalized, much to the surprise of his medical providers who honestly thought they were just waiting for him to die.
Music was the turning point on his road to recovery.
GIVE SOMETHING Upon his discharge from the hospital, Andrew vowed to someday return to the SICU, guitar in hand, and offer to others the light, hope, and healing of the music which had saved his life. And that’s exactly what Andrew did, eventually returning to the same SICU and offering his eight-stringed voice of compassion to those whose journey he knew all too well. Sitting and playing at the bedside of strangers, Andrew’s gift of music was really a gift of unconditional love to the patients, their families, and the providers at a time when they needed it the most.
“With what happened to me, you can’t thank God enough, or your doctors and nurses, or your loved ones. To give thanks you have to give something.”
Andrew took his gift – the gift of music – and used it as a healing tool.
Each of us also possess the tools needed to help others heal.
It’s easy to recognize the pain, suffering, and uncertainty within the confines of a surgical ICU. Sometimes, though, it’s far more difficult to see the everyday pain, suffering, and uncertainty within those around us, often hidden behind a facade of perceived happiness.
THE HUMAN CONNECTION Part of the perfection of our universe is our interdependent capacity to heal. We need not be a classically-trained guitarist to brighten someone’s day or to lighten another’s emotional burden. We simply need to be aware, to take that which makes us human and remind others of their own humanity, their value, and their worth. Perhaps it’s just reminding others of their significance by simply acknowledging their presence with a smile, or lending an empathetic ear, or offering a few words of encouragement, convincing those who feel alone that they are not.
Our digitally-connected world has brought the world digitally closer. Yet in some ways as individuals we have grown more isolated with many left feeling far less humanly connected than ever before. And while advancements in medical technologies continue to find astounding ways to heal a human body, love remains the only way to heal a human soul.
Each of us is an instrument of love, comfort, and compassion in a world which so desperately needs to hear our song.
Are you willing to share the healing power of you?
(I cannot do Andrew’s story justice in the limited space I have available here. I greatly encourage you to read Andrew’s book, “Waking The Spirit: A Musician’s Journey Healing Body, Mind, and Soul”, a fascinating depiction of his journey back from the brink of his own demise and his equally fascinating efforts to offer the healing power of music to others.)