Sunday, May 5, 2013

Expressing the Inexpressible

Not long ago I witnessed the power of music in a moment that was so profound, so bittersweet, that it simply took my breath away.

It happened while I was spending time with my father-in-law, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease a few years ago.  I can't imagine what it must be like for him...waking up every day in a world that no longer makes sense, but he and my mother-in-law handle it all with grace and dignity.

This picture of the two of us was taken just after his diagnosis.  Amazingly, Dad is as good-natured today as he always was.  Even in this advanced stage of his disease he can charm your socks off with his smile and make you feel very loved.

The moment I wanted to tell you about occurred on Saturday afternoon when Dad woke from a nap a bit out of sorts.  My sister-in-law and I were in charge of his care that afternoon and she suggested we sit on the patio and listen to music.  Dad sang barbershop music* for years and enjoys listening to it even now.

The music began to play and I watched in awe as it transported him to a familiar, comforting place that seemed full of deep joy and love...a place removed from the confusion and loneliness he must so often feel.  And that's when he said it: the phrase that has repeated over and over in my mind since that day.  Dad turned to me and said,
"That makes everything okay."

I will never forget the look of serenity on his face, the composure in his voice.  It was a moment to treasure.

I'm not a great portrait artist, but I took a few photos and sketched out some gestures later, trying to capture the feeling of being lost in the music.

Amazingly Dad is often able to sing along, to participate.  I've said here before that art is my friend.  I believe music is his.

Dad's ears still know how to listen for pitch and dynamics.  His hands still know how to direct the voices of a chorus.

As I watched him get lost in the familiar harmonies, I had the feeling he wasn't lonely or confused in that place.  Getting lost in his music helps him find his peace.

I am so glad to have witnessed such a sweet moment and I believe there's a lesson here for the rest of us:

Take time to honor and develop your passions, for they may just carry you through challenging times ahead.  
The things we commit not just to our minds but to our hearts will never be lost.

Have a great Sunday, friends.  I hope you find a little time to pursue something you truly love.

Linking up today with:

*Barbershop harmony is fascinating style of a cappella singing developed in late nineteenth century America.  Read more about it in this great article by Deke Sharon.


  1. What a lovely post. My mother in law had Alzheimer. It was lovely when something triggered a pathway back to us. If only briefly... :)

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this - it's beautiful. It certainly sounds like music is his art - something that reaches through disease to touch his soul.

  3. Im glad your father in law had music to bring him happiness during this time in his life. Great job on the sketche

  4. Janice that was a beautiful post, your sketches have a wonderful flow and perfectly illustrate your story. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Wonderful sketches and such a loving post. Sending lots of healing energy hugs to all ^_^

  6. Thank you for sharing such a powerful story about love and passion for life. Your gestural drawings are beautiful, as you truly captured the joy of the moment. May you and your family share many more blessed moments like this with your Dad.

  7. What a beautiful and loving reflection and these gesture drawings are wonderfully dynamic. Aloha

  8. This was a lovely moving post. Your father-in-law is very lucky to have someone so loving and sensitive in his life at this time. Your sketches truly added another layer to the richness of this piece. Thank you for sharing.

  9. Powerful and I will remember what he said that day as well.

  10. This is a beautiful story and I have shared it several times :-) It is truly heartwarming and your drawings are a lovely compliment which add so much. Hugs.

  11. Amen and amen... it is our passions that will carry us through. Jennifer told me about this post yesterday... she was right. Look forward to meeting you some day soon. blessings ~ tanna

  12. Wonderful story (even though it was bittersweet)...and you did an amazing job of capturing your dad's joy and his movements in the sketches! This reminded me of my Great-Grandmother who lost all speech after a stroke, but when my sisters and I would play string trios of hymns, Grandma could still sing along, grinning from ear to ear! (Apparently, lyrics are stored along with the music on the other side of the brain from where language is stored.)


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