PEPER COLUMN: Songbird offers hope, comfort

Mary Kunsman

Going to the surgical waiting room is never high on anybody's bucket list. It can be somewhat easier at Trident Regional Hospital, if you're there on a Monday, because that's where you'll meet Mary Kunsman. She's a volunteer hostess and 84-year-old transplant from Florida who knows how to spread sunshine around to those who find themselves in uncertain circumstances.

'The Music Lady'

Mary is a widow who lives in Goose Greek and drives herself to her various "job" sites five days a week. She's at Trident on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. On Wednesday, it's Summerville Medical Center and on Friday, Roper St. Francis. She usually rests a bit on Saturday then keeps the congregation on its toes each Sunday at Summerville Baptist Church.

She's known as "The Music Lady" because she often offers a melodic message that spontaneously spills onto those she seeks to serve.

This volunteer is vocally varied in what song might spring from her mouth. Everything from "Amazing Grace" to "As Time Goes By" is on the playlist. Somehow, she knows just the right message that patient or loved one needs to hear.

When not a hostess, she pushes the cookie cart that dispenses juice, tea, cookies and a smidgen of comfort. It's all free of charge. Tough to find that price point in hospitals these days.

Name that tune

Not too many 84-year-olds I know have their own website. Hers is marykunsman.com. Mary uses it to let those interested learn of her background and provide them a list of songs she's capable of singing. There's also a space reserved for upcoming engagements.

She doesn't have time to get sick.

You'd think after raising seven daughters and a son, it might be time to sit on the sidelines. That just wouldn't work for the senior songbird who, by the way, also has 18 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren.

Most of the melodies on Mary's song list are love songs. "You must remember this, a kiss is just a kiss, a smile is just a smile …," songs that she said "are of my day." She won't push religious songs so as not to offend, but she will take requests.

A man recently asked her to sing "Summertime." She wasn't even sure she knew all the words, but before you could say "Your daddy's rich and your mamma's good lookin'," she had people swaying in the corner of the ICU waiting room.

The sun'll come out

Hospitals, by design, are cold, antiseptic places. Every day, people come and people go. The disease, the injury, the concern, the fears -- it's constant. The faces and families may change, the circumstances, not so much.

We're a blessed community to have a volunteer who has figured out a way to bring cheer and hope and a minor diversion to those patients and their families with a smile and a song.

When tending the cookie cart, she allows just one cookie per person. There's no limit to the songs, though.

What does all this accomplish? Nothing more than a momentary opportunity for those with fears of the unknown to forget their troubles.

Close your eyes, listen carefully, I think I can hear Mary now: "Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya, tomorrow, you're only a day away."

Sounds like this volunteer has found a way to give families a little more than hope while awaiting uncertain news in the waiting room.

I'm just sayin' …