Friday, January 23, 2015

The Soundtrack

Music can do things that language can't.
~Dr. Oliver Sacks

Nearly comatose and lying twisted
in her bed, the Alzheimer's patient
had tuned out most of life's sounds, 
until a nurse placed earphones
 connected to an iPod on her 
downy head.

Then, her eyelids fluttered like tiny
butterflies, as the carefully curated
playlist tuned her back into life.

Head bobbing to the familiar songs,
her limbs swayed and feet tapped
visibly under the covers.

The soundtrack of her life.

A beautiful documentary, Alive Inside,
demonstrates that music, more than
anything else, activates the greatest
number of areas in our brains.

As a result of this narrative, a
project called Music & Memory 
is sweeping North American nursing
homes and spreading to other parts 
of the world, as well.

What an honor, through this film,
 to witness those with Dementia, 
Alzheimer's and other diseases that 
have made their worlds very dim, 
connect with songs from their past 
that literally bring them back from
that isolated place and into the
sunshine of their own existence.

As I watched, the music of Cab 
Calloway, Glen Miller, Frank Sinatra 
and more all returned a spark of life 
to these lovely souls.

Since viewing Alive Inside, I've
pondered what melodies would be
woven into my own soundtrack.

There are so many, but I know that
Carole King and Simon & Garfunkel
would surely spark some of my
earliest memories, and harp
music would remind me of my
daughter, each note she played
a gentle and loving gift. 

When I hear a favorite song from
the past, it's like pulling on a
familiar, cozy sweatshirt, and I'm
transported to a former time and
a me that used to be.

I have to believe this is what
memory bereft people must also feel 
when the headphones are secured and 
their personal playlist begins.

In their minds they are racing
and jumping as children, dancing and
laughing as teens, cuddling babies
close as moms or dads, chasing dogs
and fireflies, friends and dreams.

Alive inside.


PS:  What song would most
definitely be included in
your own life's soundtrack?

{All photos my own.}


Dianna said...

When I saw the first picture of the young woman playing the harp I knew it had to be your girl...she's a beauty, just like her sweet mama.

Amazing Grace and It Is Well With My Soul would be two of the songs in my sound track.

Lovely lovely post, Suzanne.

xo Dianna

Jeanie said...

What glorious photos. Seeing these makes me wonder why I gave up the harp - it is the most glorious instrument.

I don't think most people would know my song. It's called "I Thank You for Your Love" and it was from a flop of a musical called "The Mummer's Play" (I think) by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt, who did "The Fantasticks." I have it on a Christmas CD (A Broadway Christmas) but I don't really think it is a Christmas song. Just one of love.

A friend of mine does a Dean Martin tribute act where he travels about singing Dino's songs. Often he will play nursing homes and Alzheimer's care centers. He told me once of a person who came to his show, sitting there, head down, until he sang a certain song. Suddenly, the guy became very engaged. He had barely spoken since he'd been in the facility. After the show, he talked and talked with Rick about what he used to do and so much more. The nurses were floored. But it is yet another story of how music can touch us back further than we could imagine.

A stunning post.

Lucy martin said...

Suzanne I saw this story on the news the other day. Isn't it extraordinary?... I just love beautiful, touching to the heart real life stories like this.....
thank you for sharing it this way...I love so much music...Hymns, worship etc. When The Saints Go Marching In by Sara Groves is one of my favorites...

The enchanted home said...

Wow this really sounds incredible. I am a firm believer in the power of music to take us away, whether its ringing us back to a special memory from years gone by or thinking about a specific time with a special sure does have the ability to do that. And lets not even forget about the energy that a certain song can give us when we are not feeling our best. I could go on and on but yes music is so relevant.
I am going to check this documentary out, thank you and have a great weekend!

Leslie said...

This has really touched my heart Suzanne. Not sure if you recall.. my father passed away a little over a year ago with complications related to Alzheimer's/dementia. My father played the trombone in a band back in the day;) and was very creative. He struggled with so much in his life time but music was always a constant. I posted a tribute to him (I think it's still in my blog archive) and one of the photos I posted is a photo taken when we vacationed with him in Maui. He's walking down the boardwalk with a Ucayali singing Somewhere Over the Rainbow. I tear up every time I think about the downward progression from that point. Anyway ... your daughter is beautiful and this is a wonderful post:) enjoy your weekend. xxL

Lisa Ancona-Roach said...

Lovely photos...lovely harpist.

A couple of things come to mind while reading this--the first is that providing singalong music to nursing homes has been the personal ministry of a gentleman from my church for many, many years. What a validation of his work! The second thing is that for Christmas this year, my husband and I did personal gifts for our family--I wrote each person a letter, and he created a CD with a personal playlist for each person. Everyone loved their gifts. And for me, receiving my husband's playlist for me was very he sees me and what he wanted to communicate to me through song. Music is indeed a powerful gift.

Elizabeth@ Pine Cones and Acorns said...

What a wonderful idea, I too must check out this documentary. I volunteer at an Alzheimers facility near my house and although there are many programs in place to help with this disease, this is not one of them.

As I type this your questions are swirling in my mind, what songs compile the playlist of my life? I have to ponder that today and perhaps take a page from Lisa Ancona-Roach's comment above and make a cd of them!

Have a great week Suzanne.
xo Elizabeth

Linda @ Itsy Bits And Pieces said...

Such a beautiful post, Suzanne...I've been thinking about it for several days...revisiting the songs in my life.
Just the other day, I was in a store when the song "Build Me Up Buttercup" by the Foundations, was played.
Instantly it took me back to 14 years old, suntanning in my backyard with my cousin lol.
It is such a gift how music stays with us throughout our lives. When my father was in his last days,
my mother played his favorite music, and it was comforting to him, and my mother as well.
I loved the trailer, and am looking forward to sitting down and watching this documentary...thanks so much for sharing, Suzanne! xoxo

Linda @ Itsy Bits And Pieces said...

I forgot to tell you how lovely the photos are of E. She is beautiful and her sweet spirit shines through...xo

Just a little something from Judy said...

This post almost had me in tears. I did not hear of this documentary with music, but I must admit, it made sense to me. I love that these dear people can connect to those days of yesterday when they could run, laugh and play with those they loved. How precious!

Your daughter is beautiful, and looks so much like you! Harp music always calms my spirits with it's relaxing sounds.

Two songs that immediately came to my mind, that bring back so many memories, are the songs from the "Sound of Music" and the songs from "Fiddler on the Roof".

Julie said...

Love it! I love to have music on all the time. It is amazing to me how a song can be so tied in to the memories of moments from our past...that it literally resurrects it in the if it happened yesterday! Great post. My list would definitely be a cocktail mix of genres of music :-D ♡♡♡ hugs!

Palomasea said...

Hello, dear good to be visiting you again. What beautiful images of your daughter with the instrument I have wanted to learn since I was a little girl.
Thank you for coming by my place, I appreciate it so much.
Some changes in our family dynamic have made regular blogging and visits more challenging.
This is such a touching post, and dear to my many of us have experienced the effects of Alzheimer's on loved ones...and the music makes so much sense. I wish we could have realized that when my grandfather was going through the process.
Sending love and hugs to you...
- Irina

Melissa said...

Sooo beautiful- I'll search out that doco Suzanne.
I truly believe that song and music is a blessed gift to each of us...we don't have to be gifted, like your beautiful girl...her music is the gift to others.

We've been listening to so much music with Ella- it's incredible the influence it has on the moment and on each heart in the room together...

A beautiful beautiful post my friend...M xx

Patty Christopher said...

you have such a beautiful way with words... and yes, yes, yes. music is SO powerful. beautiful images of your daughter~