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the sweetest send-off

[This post is an update to demolishing a dying woman’s piano. If you haven’t already read that, I suggest you follow the link and do so first.]

When I parked the truck at the end of the day we demolished the dying woman’s piano, I just couldn’t get the cute little lady out of my head. How sad she was to see her piano go to waste. So I took another look in the back of the truck to see if maybe there were some salvageable pieces. There were. So I carried them home, got out some screws and wood glue, and fashioned this little table:

dying woman's piano table

A hectic schedule made me wait almost exactly two weeks, so when I finally drove back to the lady’s apartment, with the table I made from her piano in the back of my pickup, I wasn’t sure if she’d still be there. The first thing I noticed was that her balcony was still full of potted plants. A good sign. But her name was no longer on the mail slot. I buzzed up, hoping she was still alive.

After a long minute I saw a figure peeping out at me from the balcony. It was her. I called up, awkwardly, “Remember, I hauled away your piano a couple weeks ago…Well I found a way to recycle some of it….” She said of course she remembered, that she’d be down in a minute.

As soon as she saw the table, before I could lift it down, she scrambled up into the bed of my truck to inspect the workmanship and generally fondle it. I remember thinking how limber she seemed, for someone who’s supposed to be so near death.

It turned out, I soon discovered, that she actually had up to a few months to live, and that she had only recently been told this by the doctors when we removed the piano. And by then, when I returned with the table, she had told her family. “Wait till I tell my family about this,” she said. She kept looking at me and saying “Oh…” the way a grandparent does right before they grab a baby’s cheek. Until finally she broke down and started crying. We had one more overlong hug. I didn’t know what to say, but she pretty much summed it up:

“This is the sweetest send-off,” she said.

I wasn’t really trying to do something “sweet” per se. I didn’t know what I was doing there, but I felt compelled to do it. Maybe I felt guilty about wasting the thing. Or demolishing it right on the other side of her apartment door. I know it’s sick, but maybe part of me wanted proof, two weeks later, that she was actually dying. I don’t know.

When she was done thanking me, I said goodbye pretty quickly and pulled away in my truck. It was awkward for both of us. I felt like I already overstepped some boundary, and I didn’t want to linger.

4 Responses to “the sweetest send-off”

  1. on 04 Mar 2013 at 12:20 amJen

    I came across this story by accident. That was an extremely caring gesture to make the table for this dear woman. Acts like that, compassionate and spontaneous ones that seem to make no sense, are never forgotten. Like the woman who wiped Christ’s face with a cloth and this story has been handed down to this day. She is known as Veronica.

  2. on 04 Mar 2013 at 11:54 amsmidge

    Thanks for the comment, Jen. Nice to know some people are still accidentally finding this blog.

  3. on 23 Aug 2013 at 8:45 pmChris

    Wow! What a beautiful story. Sounds like a Joseph Mitchell story from “McSorley’s Wonderful Saloon”. You should read it. You have an ear for the poetry of the common man; the beauty so many of us miss all around us as we hustle through our lives. Although I love the gesture with the table, if I were your editor, I would end the story after the first post. it leaves so much food for thought. Thank you for sharing this.

  4. on 23 Aug 2013 at 10:59 pmsmidge

    Thanks for reading, Chris. It’s an awkward epilogue but it’s truth, not fiction, so I had to include it.

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