I was viewing this poignant photo gallery of people with Alzheimer’s around the world. I was struck by the photos of those finding joy in music, with one woman playing the xylophone even in the final days of her life. Then there was the video that I saw posted on the Hot Dogs and Marmalade blog about the magic of music.
One big regret I have about my dad’s care during the last month of his life, other than not being there in person for those final weeks was that I didn’t bring music back into his life. The palliative care doctor asked what kind of music Dad liked, which caught Mom and I by surprise a bit, as we had spent most of the time answering routine questions as the doctor filled out a long form. She asked us if he liked Irish music, as she had some CD’s at home that she could bring in and play for him. I don’t know if she ever did, because I left for home and Dad was transferred out of the hospital a few days later.
The last photograph of dad and I together, July 2011.
I’ve written many posts about how my dad loved to sing, especially the classics by Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby. There is a cassette tape recording of my dad singing to me when I was a baby, and the recording is in remarkably good shape. Before my father passed, I remembered the tape and was eager to get my hands on it. Luckily, it was in a very convenient spot, in a shoebox on the top shelf of the closet in the guest bedroom of my parent’s home. Being the modern gadget gal that I am, I no longer owned a cassette recorder so I ordered one from Amazon which could create an mp3 file on my computer.
I couldn’t wait to get home and start the process. I had to fiddle with the program a bit and only got a fuzzy but listenable file the first time around. Then Dad took another turn for the worse and I had to rush back to New Mexico and abandon the project for awhile. But I did have the first recording on my tablet and I thought about playing it for him, especially when he had the private room on the CCU floor at Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque. Of course, most of the time there he was sedated, but some experts believe there is some level of consciousness that remains in that state. I felt awkward playing it with so many staff members coming in and out, and of course my mom, who bless her soul, probably would have talked over the entire thing. By the time he was becoming a bit more aware, he was moved to a semi-private room where the TV was blaring.
There’s no guarantee that music would have made a difference, but it’s an opportunity forever lost. One last chance to connect, to bring back a happy memory, to maybe even make a smile appear on his haggard face. A moment that was never to be, because I was worried about things that didn’t matter.