Wednesday, November 22, 2006

BREATHING LESSONS – Part 2

It was a week before Christmas. Although it wasn’t yet six o’clock in the evening, the snowfall sent most pedestrians scurrying home; making the sidewalks looked virtually deserted in contrast to Fifth Avenue’s snarled traffic in this Friday evening rush.

I was living in Yorkville at that time. Going home from work, I would take the Lexington Avenue subway line at Grand Central Station. To get there, I would usually cut through 42nd Street from Fifth Avenue.

However, on that particular evening, I decided to first head on over to West 45th Street to check out the holiday window display of Harvey’s Electronics. At that time, this was New York City’s premier store when it came to high end sound system components.

As was often the case, I would stand in front of the window and admire some of the latest esoteric home entertainment systems and equipment. Oh God! Give me one of these and I’d definitely share it with others. This was a phrase I would repeat to myself like a mantra whenever I ogled at the store's window display. I knew then that it would only be through the grace of God that I was to acquire such impeccably-engineered components.

Many years passed before the universe did provide a series of opportunities that subsequently allowed me to acquire the sound system of my dreams. I was already in my early thirties by then and living an upwardly mobile life, so to speak. I was home one night and had just installed the final component to complete the setup which was delivered earlier that afternoon by none other than Harvey’s Electronics. Afterwards, as I enjoyed a CD by Jade Warrior, trying to figure out what else I could possibly add to it, the memory of that evening when I stood in front of Harvey’s window suddenly came back to mind; most significant was the part in which I promised to share it with others.

But how was I to go about it?

As I pondered on this question, another memory consequently came back to mind — the time when the cancer that precipitated my father’s liver cirrhosis had metastasized to affect his mental faculty. He was released from UST Hospital after it was concluded that nothing else could be done for him. He was to spend the rest of his time at home; mostly in bed and no longer able to communicate, though he could still walk about for brief moments.

In the afternoons when there was no school, I would gladly look after him while my mother sought respite at Espiritu Santo Church. At fourteen, I had willingly become my father’s part time caregiver. Surprisingly, I was never repulsed by some of the tasks involved (such as cleaning him up after he had gone to the bathroom). I simply attended to each one as best I could, though sometimes I needed to be stern with him, especially during those times when he would become impatient and point to his bedroom; wanting to go back immediately without my having completely cleaned him up. As for his baths, it was my mother who would attend to it with the assistance of our household help.

But unbeknownst to my mother, as soon as she had left the house for church, I would open all the windows in my father’s bedroom and bring in my portable Sony stereo reel-to-reel tape machine and some pre-recorded tapes that one of my brothers had brought home from the States. I would play my father’s favorite music first and then mine. At times I would sing along with some of the tunes. I’d also light up a cigarette and have my father enjoy a couple of puffs while I held it to his lips. I knew that a cigarette or two couldn’t possibly inflict further damage to his already irreversible condition.

Besides the music and cigarettes, I would also read him the news from the newspaper and tell him stories about mundane events in school, as well as synopsis of the movies I had seen with school friends or cousins. And since I was designated to pick up his check at the office, I’d fill him in on whatever news I had picked up, including messages from everyone. Through it all, he would only stare at the ceiling mindlessly or stare at my face; unable to say anything. However, through his eyes, I knew he enjoyed those afternoons I spent with him.

And just before my mother returned from church, I would have already cleaned up and aired out all traces of our secret activities. By the time she walked in, the room was back to its pristine condition — perfectly suitable for a chronically ill patient. Naturally, the household help knew all along what was going on, but they knew better than to tell my mother on me. At home, with the rest of the family and everyone else, I started to become edgy; subject to intense mood swings; and had become too smart for my own good. It was a demeanor they had never seen in me before. A month or so afterwards, my father slipped into a coma and would spend the rest of his life in a hospital. It was a long arduous ordeal for everyone, indeed.

It was this memory of my father which consequently gave me the idea on how I could best share the blessings I had just received. I called my salesman at Harvey’s and ordered some additions. The next day, my setup now included two CD players, two turntables, a reel-to-reel tape recorder, two cassette recorder and player, and a mixer. And with my extensive collection of vinyl albums and CDs (received from major record labels as promo copies when I worked in the industry, including recently purchased CDs), I began putting together onto cassette tapes a series of soothing music. I would then donate them to people who were terminally ill or who were coping with life-threatening illnesses.

My friends helped me give them out. Eventually, through word of mouth, I started getting many requests; one of whom was from a staff member of a hospice in New Mexico, which I ended up donating tapes to its lending library on a regular basis. About three years later, that hospice received substantial endowments from private foundations that enabled them to build a building of their own. In its inauguration the ceremonial ribbon was cut by their senator who was also instrumental in their receiving some federal funding. I was invited but unable to attend.

By the late ‘80s, interest in alternative healing was at its peak — yoga, creative visualization, and various holistic disciplines. In lockstep, the power of music to heal generated much wider attention including constant media attention. Soon thereafter, many recordings from independent labels were released to meet a growing demand. Even hospitals began installing sound systems in their operating rooms for a growing number of surgeons who prefer to play soothing music while performing complex and lengthy procedures. By that period, I felt I had done my job and would just point to these commercially available recordings whenever I would receive further requests for copies of my tapes.

However, by the mid-‘90s, bored by the New Age music genre and the usual catalogue of classical music (re-released but now dubbed as soothing music), I started receiving inquiries once again. Some even offered substantial money just for me to provide them with tapes for their loved ones coping with cancer or AIDS. They knew it wasn't going to miraculously heal them, but they also knew about the power of music to assuage the debilitating pain associated in their illnesses. Finally, to address these growing requests, with a group of some friends, we devised a plan to broadcast this particular kind of music programming through the Internet, which would enable everyone to listen to its streaming broadcast 24 hours for free.

Unfortunately, what hindered us from launching this startup effort was the inability by the music industry and the federal government to develop the ideal business model that would establish fair licensing fees for us to broadcast music online. On top of this great delay, the Internet bubble finally burst; hence seed monies for our startup venture suddenly became scarce. We had to fold our project and move on our separate ways.

A couple of years later, a great interest for it reemerged. It was the time when America was struggling with the aftermath of 9/11. Alas! I was already intent on moving to Manila by then, while the other members of our group had gone on to sign lucrative deals with other Internet-based companies.

I believe there’s a certain cycle and rhythm in life. And the ideal time for us to get together once again to breathe life into this project, if ever, would be in a couple of more years; however, by then, it would entail exploiting a different technology.

Be that as it may, the many years I was involved in this personal effort with programming soothing music assures me that I had sincerely lived up to my end of the bargain, which I made many years ago; one evening a week before Christmas.

Breathing Lessons — Part 1

posted by Señor Enrique at 6:05 PM


18 Comments:

Anonymous beth said...

Your life is certainly full of music eric and am glad you're able to share its healing and joy with others...

Music breathes life to life :-)
Thank God for music!

November 22, 2006 6:49 PM  

Blogger ipanema said...

It's a beautiful and moving story. Looks like some parts of the puzzle slowly gelled. Now I understand the closure I was talking about.

As a form of alternative medicine, music therapy does wonders. Perhaps to both the patient and the caregiver. Especially if it's family involved.

November 22, 2006 8:01 PM  

Blogger basey said...

iskoo,

music is one universal language just like love...just like what you had done to your Dad. A touching story indeed..hopefully someday all of us can breathe all together while we listen to the same music.... :>

November 22, 2006 10:51 PM  

Blogger minotte's notes said...

what a wonderful way to tide the ill over as music reaches into the soul, not just the body.

let us know when it happens. god bless!

November 22, 2006 11:46 PM  

Blogger Iskoo said...

Music plays a vital role in our lives, even God pleases if we offer Him our praises through music :)

November 23, 2006 12:48 AM  

Anonymous cruise said...

Your parents must be very happy to have you as their son because your kind and thoughtful.

November 23, 2006 12:50 AM  

Blogger DOPS said...

And so it was...

Very moving sharing senor, hope you have it all let out...

Dops =)

November 23, 2006 6:44 AM  

Blogger Senorito<- Ako said...

I thought I am/was a good son. :)

WOw, the internet bubble era, pretty exciting times to even be thinking of being involved.

November 23, 2006 7:10 AM  

Blogger Senorito<- Ako said...

ehmm.. my post didn't make sense. :) hehe

November 23, 2006 8:58 AM  

Anonymous kyels said...

Eric, your story inspired me --- a lot. What you did was great, seriously.

(:

HUGS!

November 23, 2006 10:16 AM  

Blogger BW said...

Amazing story... you are a person that is true to yourself. May you find the bliss and happiness you are looking for bro. All the best.

November 23, 2006 11:29 AM  

Blogger sheilamarie said...

Hola Senor, it was a very inspiring story indeed :)

November 23, 2006 4:58 PM  

Blogger bugsybee said...

What a beautiful Christmas story this is, Eric! I have always wanted to be able to share my music with people but have never thought about that aspect - providing music to people who are sick. What a wonderful idea. Although resources in the Philippines are scarce and I imagine, it must be light years away before we can have hospice or hospital wards airing out beautiful music to their terminally or critically ill patients, I sure hope somebody takes up this idea because I certainly would not hesitate to volunteer man-hours for this sort of work.

When my father was terminally ill, one of the things that we did was to provide him with his favorite classical music - this was in 2000 so it was easier because of the more advanced technology - all day long. This made him so happy!

Thank you very much for sharing this beautiful story with us. And even if we don't usually celebrate it here, happy thanksgiving!

November 23, 2006 6:01 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Thank you everyone for having read this long entry and for your kind words.

My two goals for having posted this entry are: 1) to promote the healing power of music and thereby encourage others to play music to their loved ones who are ill; 2) that the universe does tend to give to us what we ask for; therefore, we shouldn't focus on lack, but instead on the blessings we continually receive in life.

God bless and thank you once again!

November 24, 2006 8:34 AM  

Anonymous niceheart said...

This post makes me cry and you know why. My father also got terminally ill the way yours did. A combination of lung cancer and liver cirrhosis. My sister had the chance to look after him during his final days. Then he asked to be moved to his home town in Quezon province and a relative there took care of him until he passed away.

Thanks for sharing. This is a very beautiful and touching story. I also believe that music has the healing power.

I always say that one of my mottos in life is to always count my blessings, yet lately, I find myself focusing on what I lack. Thank you for this inspiring story.

November 24, 2006 12:58 PM  

Anonymous tito said...

ei Senor!

music , heh? i also love music but i'm kinda eccentric for being able to appreciate from classical to heavy metal (and almost everything in between)...the poinsettia is that from the Garden and Pet Show in QC recently? I just posted my pictures on my own blog plus the others in my new Multiply gallery.

I'm always online on Gmail/Gtalk tito DOT basa AT gmail DOT com on weekdays. We can share photo-op "intelligence data" quickly by hooking up

btw, I'm registered by another name at pinoyphotography forum but I seldom visit that site. I prefer yahoogroups and email

:)
tito a.k.a. paetechie
http://tutubipatrol.blogspot.com
http://paetechie.blogspot.com

November 25, 2006 12:29 PM  

Anonymous rhodora said...

is this "wish you were here" by pink floyd that you titled your blog? :) music is therapy. and oh, this post brought mist to my eyes. i lost a sister in 1982 and a brother in 1996. both suffered from kidney ailment. in her deathbed, just before she went to forever slumber, my sister, one by one mentioned all our names and said "babay sa inyong lahat..." i cry over this scenario until now whenever i recall...

you know, i've been browsing on your blog for about an hour now, and still, i can't get enough! breathtakingly beautiful!

December 29, 2006 9:18 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Yes, Rhodora, I had taken it from Pink Floyd.

I had just visited your site, and it is very interesting. Thanks for posting a comment earlier which made me discover your blogsite. I left a comment, but was notified your site considered it a spam ... hahaha ... and that I should inform you about it.

I've lost three siblings; all from heart ailment naman. :(

December 29, 2006 9:24 AM  

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