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  • Writer's pictureOlive Lowe

Music and Memories

Well, I’m going to go ahead and say it: Thank you, Mom and Dad, for making me take piano lessons, for making practicing a prerequisite to television, and for writing that check to my teacher each month. If you hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t have had such a wonderful yesterday, and yesterday was so very good.

Yesterday I went a memory care center for the elderly in North Phoenix. I worked there full time as an activity coordinator for nearly two years until I became a mom a year ago. Since January I have had the opportunity to go once a week to visit the residents I love. They’ve got a piano, and they love to sing. But can someone who doesn’t remember what they had for breakfast, or whose sentences don’t make much sense anymore-–can they sing? Oh, yes. Yes, they can.

When I start to play, about half of the seniors are asleep. But then, with each familiar tune, something begins to happen. Heads lift and smiles appear on faces. Words to songs they have never forgotten, and tunes they hum along to. There’s a man in the back who doesn’t lift his head–but his feet are tapping. A woman recalls places and names from her youth. A man whispers to his wife, “I love you.” A sweet lady who is usually so sleepy is wide-eyed and smiling. A woman looks to her friend and says, “This is a good place.” An hour-and-a-half of music bliss had gone by, but it felt like five minutes.

I am so grateful for music’s ability to touch us and lift our spirits. In the many unfair ways that Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia can steal a person’s memories, I think it a tender mercy that the music part of our minds can remain so untouched.

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