What is still there, within silent, impassive elders?
How can they be reached, revived, made happier?
This video suggests something more can be done, with mind, with balance.
It comes from Australia, from the ABC Science outlet, and it shows elders, people suffering from Parkinson’s disease and other debilitating conditions, responding to the universal blessing – music – and its partner, dance.
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At this point, you might prefer to just watch.
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But let me add this: I was hooked in the first few minutes because the video reminds me of my mother’s last months in the very nice Chapin Home in Jamaica, Queens.
She had suffered a stroke plus other indignities of old age, and she rarely spoke.
Sometimes my wife would pop in with CDs of operas we knew my mother loved -- “La Boheme” or “Madame Butterfly”-- and my mother would smile with recognition.
She did not burst into song or try to dance to “Musetta’s Waltz” but she surely perked up. A few times she even spoke my wife’s name.
Some of the other residents would migrate to the room, and listen to the music, which brought smiles and nods and humming memories of the past.
In this video, the Australian network delves into the science and the mysteries of the impact of music, but there is so much more to be learned. My wife, who knows more than I do about the science of the brain, asks if, by watching these transformations, couldn’t therapists use the power of music, the muscle memory of youth, to enable daily physical and mental action?
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I can tell you this: my kids and grandkids could dig up the music that stirs me, right from my vintage iPod with the click wheel.
My thanks to Bruce-from-Canada, for calling my attention to the Australian science video.
More and More, I Talk to the Dead--Margaret Renkl
NASHVILLE — After my mother died so suddenly — laughing at a rerun of “JAG” at 10 p.m., dying of a hemorrhagic stroke by dawn — I dreamed about her night after night. In every dream she was willfully, outrageously alive, unaware of the grief her death had caused. In every dream relief poured through me like a flash flood. Oh, thank God!
Then I would wake into keening grief all over again.
Years earlier, when my father learned he had advanced esophageal cancer, his doctor told him he had perhaps six months to live. He lived far longer than that, though I never thought of it as “living” once I learned how little time he really had. For six months my father was dying, and then he kept dying for two years more. I was still working and raising a family, but running beneath the thin soil of my own life was a river of death. My father’s dying governed my days.
After he died, I wept and kept weeping, but I rarely dreamed about my father the way I would dream about my mother nearly a decade later. Even in the midst of calamitous grief, I understood the difference: My father’s long illness had given me time to work death into the daily patterns of my life. My mother’s sudden death had obliterated any illusion that daily patterns are trustworthy.
Years have passed now, and it’s the ordinariness of grief itself that governs my days. The very air around me thrums with absence. I grieve the beloved high-school teacher I lost the summer after graduation and the beloved college professor who was my friend for more than two decades. I grieve the father I lost nearly 20 years ago and the father-in-law I lost during the pandemic. I grieve the great-grandmother who died my junior year of college and the grandmother who lived until I was deep into my 40s.
Some of those I grieve are people I didn’t even know. How can John Prine be gone? I hear his haunting last song, “I Remember Everything,” and I still can’t quite believe that John Prine is gone.
Jan. 30, 2023