First I Tell the Patient

Double SATB choir and narrator.  May 2015.  Commissioned by the Willamette Master Chorus under the direction of Paul Klemme for their concert, Celebrating Life.  Text is by Don Colburn.

First I tell the patient who I am
and why I’m calling, why me
instead of the oncologist who’s out of town.
I talk slowly, but try not to sound
grave. I make sure she’s at home
or somewhere she can talk, and not alone.
Then I take a deep breath, and start to break
the news. But not like it was breaking news.
Except it is – to them it always is.
I can’t just hate that part – the messenger –
because it matters so. Whatever they hear
I want it to leave room for hope. The only way
is to remember there’s this Brenda
on the other end, who could be me.