I think my pal Lou is on his deathbed. 

What does that even mean? He sleeps most of the time and doesn’t eat much. His days of being a medical miracle are spent pondering the finish line. At 97, his gaze is distant, his kidneys are kaput and his body is shut down for business, but man-oh-man-oh-man, dude, the spirit. The spirit is strong. 

Anything you want, he tells his companion when she teases, what am I going to do with you, Lou-Lou? 

Fuck off, he snaps at an orderly who doesn’t mean to hurt him. 

The spirit is an ocean. The spirit is a beast. I can’t help but wonder: when Lou’s body takes its last breath, will it live on? Will the spirit still be his? 

The universe breathes.

I walk the planes of Lou’s ancient face as he sleeps.

There is music.

A lilting, Trinidadian voice… softly, his companion sings:

My Bonnie lies over the ocean

My Bonnie lies over the sea…

Salty air wafts through the hospital room, centuries of hopeful hearts, lost souls, lapping waves.

Lou told me he often thinks about his late wife, his darling Tessy: is she calling out to him now?tessy_and_lou_a_1948bbiggLou sighs in his sleep.

I sing along:

My Bonnie lies over the ocean

Oh, bring back my Bonnie to me…

On his deathbed, we turn to Lou. In perfect time, his eyes pop open; he nails the chorus:

Bring back, bring back!

Oh, bring back my Bonnie to me, to me…

His weary voice rises, rouses, growls.

Tessy died over five years ago, after ten long years of decline. Naomi, their doting daughter had worried that Lou wouldn’t survive her mother’s death, but boyfriend rallied, revived, thrived! Grateful for everything and everyone. His heart is so open, his  song so deep, Lou is incontestably, irrepressibly alive.

We must sing.

Naomi hands me the lyrics for the final verse. Damn if we don’t sound good. We blow off the hospital roof.

Sing it!

Last night as I lay on my pillow

Last night as I lay on my bed

Last night as I lay on my pillow

I dreamt that my Bonnie was dead.

With gusto!

Bring back, bring back

Bring back my Bonnie to me, to me

Bring back, bring back

Bring back my Bonnie to me…


For more stories about Lou, click here: Senior High.

Special thanks to Naomi and Lou Levine, for giving me carte blanche and always inviting me into the room.


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GOOD NEWS FLASH: I’d like to dedicate this gorgeous song by Tom Waits, performance by Cibelle and video by Gus Guimaraes and Adams Caralhoto to everyone with a song in their heart.


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