by Steve Wagers

This content is part of a series.

There's a Tear Worth Being Shed (3 of 4)
Series: Throw Out A Lifeboat, Somebody's Sinking
Steve Wagers
Psalm 126:5-6


Years ago, an old drunken bum was admitted to the busy Bellevue Hospital in New York. He was obviously a charity case, one among hundreds, who had came from the Bowery with a slashed throat. His name was misspelled on the hospital form, and his age was incorrect. He was 38, not 39; and, he looked twice that. Somebody might have remarked, "What a shame for one so young," but no one did, because no one cared.

The details of what had happened in the predawn of that chilly winter morning in New York were fuzzy. The nurses shrugged it off, because they had seen thousands like him, and were sure to see thousands more. His health was gone, and he was starving. He had been found lying in a heap, bleeding from a deep gash in his throat. His forehead was badly bruised, and he was semiconscious. A doctor used black sewing thread to suture the wound. Then, the man was dumped in a paddy wagon and dropped off at Bellevue Hospital, where he languished and died. But nobody really cared.

A friend looking for him was directed to the local morgue. There, among dozens of other nameless corpses, he was identified. When they scraped together his belongings, they found a ragged, dirty coat with 38 cents in one pocket, and a scrap of paper in the other; all of his earthly goods. Enough coins for another night in the Bowery, and five words, "Dear friend, and gentle hearts." No doubt, someone may have thought them to be like the words of a song.

However, that would have been correct, for once upon a time that man had written the songs that literally made the whole world sing. Songs like, "Camptown Races," "Oh! Susanna," "Beautiful Dreamer," "Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair," "Old Folks at Home," and my own personal favorite, "My Old Kentucky Home;" along with two hundred more that have become deeply rooted in our rich Am ...

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