May 29, 2010 at 10:39 AM
The following may read like a bad movie script but it is entirely true.
Your story moved me to tears. Thank you for sharing it.
What a beautiful story. Musical memories are so deeply embedded. I'm so glad you were able to reach your mother in this way.
Thanks so much for sharing this with us! There is nothing more powerful than music!
Magic, pure magic.
I was moved by your story also -- from 2 different perspectives.
First I was reminded of the work of the neurologist Dr Oliver Sacks. I remember seeing a TV show where a man in his upper 80s was brought to the front of a room in a home for the elderly. He could hardly walk and mentally, was barely present. Jazz music from his youth was put on & he started to dance in a way that I envy. When it ended, he immediately retreated back into that world you referred to with your mother.
The other perspective is more personal. I quit playing violin when I was 18. My orchestra teacher in high school said I needed to either work harder or quit -- so I quit. Quit in favor of playing folk music on guitar (I was never very good) & being a performing Balkan folk dancer (I was good). Music has continued to occupy a big place in my life. I am a huge opera fan. But about 14 years ago my son began to take violin lessons. At the time, I was also quite take by the melodies & rhythms of regional Scandinavian folk dance music that I had become fond of. The combination led be back to playing, after about 35 years. I found that the old classical repertoire was still in my fingers. The new tunes were just waiting at skin level, already deep in my soul.
I have not become a great fiddler, but I play well for dancers, since I am a dancer. More importantly, it has brought joy & breadth to my love of music.
For my own reasons I relate to your story. I am very happy for you.
You were very lucky to have brought your mother back with music, even for a short moment. I too live in Canada and three years ago I did something similar to my dying father who lived in Shanghai. I didn't bring the violin but went to Shanghai and purchased oneat a local luthier so that I could play for him one more time. I would have traded anything just to be able to bring him some joy with my violin playing. Unfortunately he didn't seem to enjoy it. He was extremely lucid, but quite depressed, being a long-term stroke victim. This is one of those things I've noticed with some depressed people, that they lose interest in things they used to love, such as food, music, what have you. Music is especially helpful for patients with dementia, which may or may not be your mother's case. There are a lot of amazing stories about how some quite advanced stage dementia patients are able to return to their healthy and lucid state when music is performed or even be able to perform beautifully even when they were not able to talk. This video explains some of this.
I know what you mean by guilt all that. He passed away a few months after my last visit. And you know, some part of me still feel that had I been a better violinist then, or had I chosen some better sets of pieces to play for him, he might have enjoyed it. I know it's unproductive to think like this but it's part of the grieving I guess.
It is real life stories like this that makes this website so wonderful and unique.
We now know where Elise got the word "geliebte" (loved one) from. She must have heard it a lot.
I wonder if you know the work of singer and songwriter Cathie Ryan? She had a similar experience when visiting her grandmother (who, by the way, played the fiddle). Seeing that Cathie was saddened that her grandmother no longer knew her, her aunt suggested that she sing to her, and as she did -- she was sitting on the floor at her grandmother's feet -- she saw her foot begin to tap, and then, as with you, there her grandmother was, for the space of the song, present and aware and happy.
I am so glad for your connection and your good memory also.
What a touching story - thanks so much for sharing it with us!
Elise, that was a very touching story. I'm glad that you were able to reconnect with your mother, if only briefly, through music.
Other people have had similar experiences. I know one couple who cared for the husband's mother at home for years when she had Alzheimer's and could not communicate verbally. The whole family is musical, and the old woman had played violin in the past. Sometimes the couple would give the old woman her violin to play. Sometimes she would start to hold it upside down, but when they corrected her mistake, she would play her violin. The effect on her mind was even more impressive. For several days after playing her violin, she would be more alert and more interested in things around her. Music is indeed a very powerful force.
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