His soft voice floated out the door and down the hallway. If it were possible you might see wings of angels attached to every note. He wasn't the finest singer in the world, but his words of love needed only his personal interpretation.
I had been visiting a friend at the hospital when I was introduced to this wonderful man. No, not in person. But I got to know who he was through his singing.
You see every evening right before they made the announcement that visiting hours were over, this wonderful gentleman would sing to his wife.
"I'll be loving you always. With a love that's true always," he sang with a slight warble in his voice.
"Every night that I've been here, I've heard him sing that song," my friend told me. "In fact, if you notice this wing of the hospital suddenly becomes quiet at the first sound of his voice. You know how noisy hospitals can be."
"What do you know about him?" I asked.
"Nothing much. There are rumors floating around that contradict each other--that he's wealthy, that he has nothing. I do know that he's up in years, around 80, they say," he told me.
"I'd love to meet him," I said.
"I don't think visitors are permitted in that room. When I get up and walk down the hall for my daily therapy, I walk over there on purpose. Looking in, I always see the curtain pulled around," he replied. "But I'll find out what I can for you. I know how you love stories like this."
I decided to return the next night just to hear him sing again. Well, I told my friend I was really there to see him. But he would understand anyway.
Once again like clockwork, just minutes before the announcement, the singing began. It was the oddest thing. You could sense that the old gentleman was about to sing because the place quieted down in anticipation.
"I'll be loving you always. With a love that's true always. When the things you plan need a helping hand, I will understand always, oh always..."
When he'd finished and the hustle and noise of the hospital picked up, I turned to my friend and said, "It's wonderful that he comes every day to sing to his wife."
"Bob, I thought I told you. He's not visiting there. He's a patient," my friend said.
"Oh, I'm sorry. I misunderstood. His wife is visiting him. Maybe if I hurry I catch her when she leaves. I would really love to speak with her,"
"Bob, that would be impossible. I did a little research today. You'll love this one. He's all alone down there. He sings that song for his wife who is in a nursing home. Their children live out west somewhere. She can't come to visit him. She is in an acute-care section where she is monitored all the time. She can't even talk much, so the staff where she is arranges the phone call. They visit over the phone a few minutes each night and he always ends it the same way--singing to her," he said.
We said our goodbyes, and I hurried toward the old man's room. The announcement came ending visiting hours, and one by one people started exiting the rooms. This room was near the end of the hallway. Like a little kid not wanting to be caught, I tiptoed past the nurses' station and stood looking out the window as if I were waiting for someone.
I turned and started walking toward his room, and suddenly a nurse came out.
"I'm caught!" I thought to myself. But she never looked my way. I walked up to the door, and there he was, standing with the help of a walker and looking out the window. With his back to me, he didn't see me there. I was about to make a comment in hopes that I could meet this wonderful man, when he suddenly raised his hand as if waving to someone out the window.
"Sweet dreams, my love," he said. "Sleep well, my angel. It won't be long until we are finally together for eternity. Always and always."
I couldn't say a word. I turned and left.
My friend was released from the hospital so I have not had the opportunity or reason to return. But I know in my heart that the two lovers will be fine, no matter what happens.
Because they have a love that will last "not for just an hour, not for just a day, not for just a year, but always."