My mother's hands, circa 1950s.

My mother’s hands, circa 1950s.

Back to the word choosing the blogger—I really had other plans for “Y” but yesterday another word insisted I change those plans. No, this time my back isn’t out (“B”) and I’m not ill (“I”), thank goodness. While in church enjoying the musical celebration for the retirement of our choir director (18 years at our church and 50 years as a director), I suddenly found myself yearning for the retirement celebration my mother never got.

See that’s the thing when people start falling into dementia—there’s no good way formally to celebrate what people have done and who they have been without pointing out that they are not that anymore.

The choir director and his wife were part of the senior class listed in my deceased father’s college yearbook (from his second degree, post-Korea) so they are not young. But they are still doing very well—no doubt they have decided to enjoy life while they can by giving themselves more freedom and control over their own time.

I remember suggesting to Mom that she give up the organ bench once or twice a month so that she could enjoy her music as well as the other activities she wanted to pursue in her life. However, until forced to do so by getting pretty sick with shingles, she did not do so. Although her downhill slide began around that time, she continued singing in her choir and participating in the musical life of her church for a couple more years until after she had an accident while visiting us which lead to her staying with us to recuperate.

A little later she decided she was done living away from us, which meant the day she had come to visit us turned out to be the day she left behind her own church and her former life.

Oh, the music didn’t quite leave her hands right away—she managed to play organ for her new retirement community weekly until a hospital stay ended her formal participation in service. But within a couple months she was just lost, so much so that she needed to go into secure 24-hour care.

Ever since she turned twelve she’d been playing in church on and off. One day she just disappeared from the bench where she had sat—in one church, school, community group, or another—for 67 years. Her hands silenced, the hymnals closed, and the music set aside, who was she without her music?

I still yearn for her to have lost her abilities gradually—that she could have chosen when to leave and could have been toasted and roasted while she still sat on the bench.

How delighted she would have been to hear music made in her honor. I have to believe that somehow she was able to listen to the musical goodbyes at her memorial service, but yesterday I was reminded again just how much I wish she had heard that joyful noise on this earth.

And, yet, the music she taught me and that she gave me over the years prepared me to be part of yesterday’s musical goodbyes—for someone who is still here to delight in the songs. Thanks to her, how can I keep from singing?

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