As I mentioned in my last post, I recently lost two of my favorite Musical Memories clients last week. They were both fun and lovely women who allowed me into their lives during what turned out to be their final days on earth, for which I’ll be forever grateful.
If you haven’t already, please read Call Me Eve! to learn about dear Evelyn. But now let me tell you about June. I’ll warn you, though. This one gets a little spooky!
June was a bright and brilliant person with a genuinely charismatic personality. I’m sure that came in handy because, as she told me, she and her husband had been very involved in local, state and national politics. Since it’s important to me to protect the privacy of my clients and their families, I won’t be specific, but I was impressed to learn that her husband had been elected to a high state office and was later subject to a presidential appointment on the national level. And June herself worked in state government in various capacities.
She was also a proud Baylor University graduate, who taught me the Baylor Alma Mater – That Good Old Baylor Line – which is sung to the tune of In the Good Old Summertime, and which we sang at the end of every visit, complete with the “Sic ‘em, Bears!” sign at the end.
Like Eve, June’s favorite songs were traditional hymns. She loved Amazing Grace, Into the Garden and Blessed Assurance, which I sang for her frequently. But one song I didn’t know – and she requested several times – was The Old Rugged Cross. So I was excited the day I had finally learned it and planned to sing it for her. But alas, she was in the hospital that day. For the next few weeks, I looked forward to surprising her with it when she got out. I was heartbroken when I got the call that she had passed away unexpectedly. She would never hear me sing her favorite hymn.
This is where it gets spooky. A couple of days later I was singing to Alice who lived a few rooms down from June. Alice also loves hymns and was happy to sing along with me to The Old Rugged Cross. I try to be very present with my elder friends, but at that moment I have to admit that I couldn’t stop thinking about June.
So imagine how I felt when, as we finished singing the song, Alice stared past me into the empty room and said, “There’s someone behind you.”
Now, Alice tends to have what some people would call “hallucinations”. She “sees” her departed family members often. In fact, I wrote about her family “visits” last year in A Family Reunion. But I wanted to be sure she wasn’t feeling frightened, so I checked with her and she assured me that the person behind me seemed nice. And then she was gone.
As I’ve said before, I don’t know how any of this life, death, and after-life stuff works, so I won’t swear that June was there, listening to The Old Rugged Cross. All I do know is that I will never sing or hear that song without thinking of her, and that makes me happy.
I have read that people with Alzheimer’s will in fact experience an enhanced intuitive sense and I observed this in my own mother. The theory is that all the stuff we “know” actually inhibits our intuitive nature so when a person loses memories, knowledge etc, intuitive capabilities increase. Also, my Mom, who was never very religious or particularly “spiritual” changed in that regard as dementia advanced. She would often say that someone who had passed on came to visit her and those seemed to be very vivid experiences. I don’t know much about the afterlife either but I am very open to believing that June wanted to hear you sing her song and Alice was, because of her heightened intuition, able to let you know she was there. How awesome is that! I really admire what you do Pat.
Rindy, I totally agree with you about enhanced perception. Dementia people (as I call them) seem to be so totally present that they can see, feel and often express things we “healthy” people can’t or won’t. I will go to my own grave believing June was there. Thanks for your support. It means the world to me.
You never heard The Old Rugged Cross because you were raised a Catholic. I, on the other hand, learned it and had to sing it every Sunday as a Baptist. Sheesh! Glad it came in handy for you.
Teresa, How right you are! Catholics had no good hymns! I am grateful to my two Methodist husbands for teaching me the good stuff. (Don’t know how they missed The Old Rugged Cross!)
What a lovely gift of presence! How could any-one who loves a song not show up as it is sung with heart and soul. Keep singing, Pat. You are truly a lovely gift of standing between two worlds.
What a lovely hymn. The Old Rugged Cross was my paternal grandmother’s favourite and I remember hearing her singing along to it when I was a youngster (all those years ago). Best wishes, David & Elaine xx