By Peter Fredson

A long time ago, in Southern Mexico, I could finally afford to hire both a cook and a maid for myself and several staff members.  I had a portable wind-up phonograph with several dozen jazz and big-band records, which I would play at special events.  The cook and maid were both delighted with the music and kept peeping in from the kitchen to share the music.

In those days malaria and yellow-fever still were terrible menaces and we only had some quinine medications to ward off the infections.  One day the maid came to me in sorrow. Her little baby had just died. She wanted to take several days off for the wake and funeral, which I granted immediately. She asked if I would come to the wake, and I said “Yes, of course.” 

Then she asked if I could bring the portable phonograph to play for her baby.  I said I didn’t know if any of the music was appropriate, but she said, “Could you tell me the name of some of the songs?” I translated the names into Spanish for her.  Well, “Stomping at the Savoy” was out so I mentioned several others. “When the Saints go Marching In” with Louis Armstrong met an enthusiastic reception, because Saints are always welcome. Then I mentioned “Yes, Sir, That’s My Baby.”  And my maid said, “Oh, Sir, that’s wonderful because that IS my baby.”

So it was determined that both songs were remarkably suitable and appropriate, and both were played that evening, with several others whose names I have forgotten, and everybody was well satisfied, and all solemnities were observed.

Several days later I asked the maid if everything was well.  She said, “Yes, my baby went to heaven with religious music.”  I asked how long she would be in mourning and she answered, “Oh, Sir, it was a terrible thing to happen, but now it’s over.” Then she patted her stomach and said, “The factory is still working and I can make another baby.”

And so it was.

3 thoughts on “SOUL MEDICINE

  1. You realize that wakes and funerals are not for the dead, but for the living family and friends. That was a very special wake, and a great way to look at life and death in general. smile

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