I'm a lot like my father. He had some favorite pieces of music that he would listen to as loud as he could, so as to be overwhelmed, buried in it. You could see his emotions cross his face as he listened, the music making it almost as if he would burst with the beauty of it.
His favorite pieces were "The Grand Canon Suite" and the theme from the movie, "Gettysburg". For some reason - perhaps it is because both his maternal and paternal great grandfathers fought at Gettysburg in the 77th NY - my father was fascinated by the Civil War, and supremely, by the pivotal Battle of Gettysburg. While I share his interest in the Civil War, my heroes are Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, not because of their Southern stance or their legendary leadership, but because they were honorable Christian men who lived what they believed.
A few months ago, I bought my mother an inexpensive CD player so that she could bring music to my father in the "home". Every day when she visits, if the weather is nice, she rolls his wheelchair outside into the tree shaded courtyard and they visit awhile and enjoy the breeze and the sound of the birds. The first time I tried to bring him music was a while before that. I drove up to visit them and my mother was to meet me at the home. I got there first, went to see my father, had a nurse get him ready for going outside - and out we went. I hadn't been alone with him in such a long, long time. My mother is always there and while that is a good thing, this felt like a stolen minute when I could somehow try to connect with the man I used to know. I had my iPhone with me and, as we sat in the courtyard, I told him I had something for him. I began to play the Grand Canyon Suite, and he began to hum along, his deep, beautiful voice still there. There's the part where the donkey is clopping down the trail in the canyon, from top to bottom. The music is onomatopoeic in the way a word sounds like what it describes.
This is part one. The donkey part is part three.
Part three - the donkey theme:
Part five - the cloudburst, and then peace:
When I played part three for him - "On the Trail", that's when he hummed along. He doesn't remember how old he is or what year it is, he's not sure what town he is in, or even where he is, but he remembered that music. They say that music, even for Alzheimer's patients, (although my father has dementia, not alzheimers, for what it's worth) is remembered, including lyrics. It is indeed soul therapy.
When I first got to his room that day I asked him if he knew who I was, and he did. He always melts when I ask him that and he smiles and says, "my daughter" in this goofy way that is so precious to me. I have to fight back tears at that point, it is so beautiful. I've always known that underneath the anger issues, he was the most darling man, and I see it now more than ever. He is happy every day. He jokes with the nurses, he smiles, he never complains. I can still see the father I remember as a child who always had to stop and talk to people, chat with the gas station attendant or the grocery store clerk, share a joke or a funny line with an acquaintance he has bumped into.
I think about who I am at the present time and who I have been for the past 20 years as a grownup. We should all strive to keep the worries of this world from affecting our behavior, from making us angry or resentful because, in the end, none of it matters anyway. We are left elemental. Babies are elemental. They soak up what is around them but they are worried about nothing. If they begin to get uncomfortable, aka, hungry, wet, tired, sick - they cry and alert their caretakers that something is needed. They aren't angry or resentful or jealous or sad - not yet, anyway. Not at the very beginning. And as we age, we go back to elementals. My father is ok as long as he is comfortable - and he seems to be that almost all the time. He even laughs at times.
How hard it is for all of us to let go as time passes, but eternity promises that time will no longer hold sway over us. It will always be "now" and we will never be ruled by a clock or a calendar again. We will be able to spend eons with our loved ones in heaven if we wish, and none of the shadows of this life will interfere. It will be elemental all the time. The basics, with us being fully functional beings and nothing to react against or fear. We won't have to be reduced to babyhood to live beautifully and happily without a blemish.
Here is the theme from the movie, "Gettysburg" that so moved my father: