Sentimental Journey May 2013
“You’ll Never Walk Alone…”
“When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high, and don’t be afraid of the dark. At the end of the storm, is a golden sky and the sweet silver song of the lark.
Walk on through the wind, walk on through the rain, though your dreams be tossed and blown. Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart and you’ll never walk alone. You’ll never walk alone.”
(“You’ll Never Walk Alone” is a show tune from the 1945 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Carousel.)
As a care manager, I’m often called to coordinate services for clients at the end of their life. During these times of crisis and end-of-life decisions, I’m asked to make sure care is with them around the clock. They are fearful of being alone and what may happen as their body transitions through the end. It’s so important for people to have support in whatever capacity they wish so they are not walking alone through this journey. Someone to hold their hand when they are scared, to play familiar music on a CD player if that provides comfort, to read a favorite scripture, to prepare their favorite foods, to help them be comfortable if they are in pain or to provide care when they are unable to care for themselves.
It’s very rewarding to let people have the end on their terms. Usually the first request is to stay at home surrounded by the familiar and with those who love them. The next request is that they not be in pain. It’s important to partner with a wonderful group like hospice to add the medical oversight to ensure they are pain-free. The most important thing to keep in mind is that this is their journey and they should be able to be in charge up to the very end.
The most powerful childhood memory I have was being at my mother’s bedside at the end of her life. Even though it was a traumatic and deeply sad time, there are such sweet memories of my sister and me on either side of her holding her hands and listening to a recording she and her friends had made singing Irving Berlin songs. In the midst of profound grief, listening to familiar songs with her voice singing them brought comfort and peace. As the final bars of “Blue Skies” played over the tape player, she took her last breath. Everything about the moment seemed right, except she’d no longer be with us. I’m just so thankful I had the opportunity to be with her at the end and have it be in her home with her family by her side. No one should ever have to “walk alone.”
Sentimental Journey April 2013
“Pick Yourself Up”
For when my chin is on the ground
I pick myself up, dust myself off
Start all over again
Don’t lose your confidence if you slip
Be grateful for a pleasant trip
And pick yourself up, dust yourself off
Start all over again
Work like a soul inspired
Till the battle of the day is won
You may be sick and tired
But you’ll be a man, my son
Will you remember the famous men, Who had to fall to rise again?
So take a deep breath, Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, Start all over again”
During last month’s Academy Awards, when Ben Affleck went to the stage to accept an Oscar for his movie, “Argo” that won best picture, he stated a poignant truth in his acceptance speech: “It doesn’t matter how you get knocked down in life, because that’s going to happen. All that matters is that you have to get up.” As soon as he uttered those words, I remembered the familiar lines to a 1936 song composed by Jerome Kern and lyrics by Dorothy Fields, “Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again.”
What an important lesson to learn in life. We are not guaranteed successes in this life, but we’re always guaranteed an opportunity to try again. I believe in a God of second chances. Heck, I believe in a God of third and fourth and fifth chances. I’ve learned some amazing lessons from my mistakes and hard times. Sure, it might be easier to make the best choice every time and not trip and fall into the land of bad decisions. Sometimes bad things happen whether we had something to do with the decision-making or not. What we can decide at every turn and dip in the road is our reaction. We decide if we get knocked down permanently or if we just, “pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and start all over again.”
I think my ability to see the good in most situations comes from being raised by a parent that lived through the Great Depression. It was the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality that kept us kids on our toes and seeking to always improve our lives through education and experiences.
Phrases like, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right,” “Tough times don’t last, but tough people do,” and “Always look for the silver lining” have all helped mold me to be a person who is willing to persevere no matter what the circumstances.
I see this perseverance in my clients who are aging successfully. It’s their ability to make lemonade out of life’s lemons that keeps them fulfilled and happy. Growing up and growing old is hard work. It’s not for the faint of heart. And as the wise Mae West once stated, “Growing old is not for sissies.”
Think back to when life knocked you down, and you got back up, stronger and wiser than before. I hope you’ll share your stories with me.
Sentimental Journey March 2013
Thanks for the memory…
Sometimes you get the opportunity to take a trip down memory lane with another person and learn a part of their story. And in learning their story, it can remind you of your own.
Recently, I had the opportunity to support a client’s end-of-life journey. In getting to know him, I learned he served in the Navy during World War II and survived the battle at Pearl Harbor aboard the USS Maryland. He grew up on a farm in West Virginia and married the love of his life after the war. Prior to her death 12 years ago, they had been married 55 years. As we flipped through the pages of a worn photo album, I saw memories of a young couple as they began their journey together. His days in the Navy, their courtship, wedding, honeymoon, birthday parties and births of children to family trips, anniversaries, retirement dinners and births of grandchildren were all captured. Within those pages, a lifetime was lived.
In listening to his childhood memories on a farm in West Virginia, I recalled the stories my father had shared of growing up on a farm in Alabama. From the foods they both loved, like cornbread and buttermilk, ham, cabbage and potatoes and biscuits and gravy, to similar experiences of serving in WWII, I was getting a chance to rekindle times with my own father. In taking care of my client, I was reminded why this amazing group of people is referred to as the “Greatest Generation.”
Bob Hope has a signature song entitled “Thanks for the Memory.” Whenever I hear the tune, I immediately think of him. A song introduced in 1938 and sung by both Shirley Ross and Hope, it recounts the good and not so great memories of a life shared together.
So, thanks for the memory, Harold! The memory of your life, the memory of my father’s and my hope that I, too, can look back to a life well-lived someday. Thanks to Bob Hope and Shirley Ross for this wonderful song.
What memories do you think of when you hear this song? I hope you’ll share. I’d love to hear your story.
Contact Pollard at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sentimental Journey February 2013
Never too old for love…
At an early impressionable age, I was scared to death of love. After all, I spent a lot of time watching the Little Rascals on TV. Darla was dressed in what appeared to be some kind of bee or bug costume and had a buzzing arrow in her hand. As she approached each unsuspecting couple all around 6 or 8 years old, she’d warn, “The love bug will get you if you don’t watch out!” She then proceeded to buzz them with her arrow. As if under a spell, the young couple instantly fell in love and started singing, “Hidey, hidey, hidey, ho – that’s what love is all about!”
So you can imagine my fear of getting bitten by this love bug. I may have been a bit of a literalist as a child. I not only believed that love was some scary infection caused by a bite from a bug, I foolishly thought people heard wedding bells when they were in love.
“The Love Bug Will Bite You” was a popular song at the time. Its words and music were composed in 1936 by Pinky Tomlin and made popular by big bands like the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra. The song made it into “The Our Gang Follies of 1938″ featuring Darla as the love bug.
I’ve now stopped my belief in literal love bugs and actual sounds of wedding bells and realize that love can happen when you least expect it, so you best watch out.
Recently when I was at a client’s house, she spoke of her now deceased second husband. She remembered meeting him at a time in her life when she least expected to fall in love. Her first husband had passed away of cancer, and she truly thought that he was her one true love.
In quiet determination, she was content with hobbies and friends and activities at church and promised herself she wouldn’t be one of those lonely widow women. She was going to be fun and outgoing and continue to keep living. Out of the blue, a friendship with a nearby neighbor, who had also recently been widowed, blossomed. She certainly hadn’t expected to fall in love. It just happened. She recalls talking with another fellow widowed friend to feel out the waters of what she was going to do. She wasn’t sure a woman of her age and life experience should be acting like a giddy school girl. Her friend shared that she, too, had recently met someone and couldn’t believe the way she felt. The two giddy women gushed over their newfound romances in spite of the gray in their hair.
Lesson learned. You’re never too old to fall in love, and love can happen when you least expect it. So maybe my childhood fear of getting bitten by a bug that would transmit love was irrational. It won’t be young Darla dressed up as a winged love bug with a buzzing arrow dancing behind me and singing, “The love bug will get you if you don’t watch out!” It may just happen when I least expect it at whatever age I am.
Do you have childhood or adult memories of love and music you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you.
Sentimental Journey January 2013
A new year, a new beginning
There’s something about starting a new year that makes you feel like you get a second chance. There is no point considering the rate at which New Year’s resolutions begin and are often soon forgotten, but I’m going to offer one through the lyrics of a popular song that I think we can all do. It’s about perspective and being young at heart. I have not found the fountain of youth. We all know we can’t turn back the hands of time and be any younger than our actual age. But that doesn’t mean we need to give in and act our age.
When I was a young girl in Tampa, there was a very active group at my church called Young at Heart. This fun group planned monthly dances with elaborate decorations, food and themes and held them in the parish hall. There was singing, dancing, laughing and an overall zest for life in these gatherings.
Even though I was only 6 or 7 years old at the time, I would never have considered these people old. Most participants were 50-70 years my senior, but I only thought they were fun. I loved going to their socials with my mom.
What made the difference for this group of senior citizens to become the Young at Heart group? Perspective. None of them seemed to take themselves too seriously. I recall on Valentine’s Day that they even crowned a king and queen of the night. They were a wonderful group of people who did not act their age, but were very young at heart.
As I’ve grown up, I’ve realized that people who have a good sense of humor, ones that don’t take themselves too seriously, are quick with a kind word, are not afraid to try new things, don’t spend much time complaining or gossiping, seem to be very happy and youthful. Sometimes with age comes permission to be authentic and be comfortable in your own skin. I promised myself last year when I turned 40 that I wasn’t going to wait until I was 80 to say how I felt or act the way I wanted.
Last month, a beloved client of mine passed away after a long and courageous battle with Parkinson’s disease. She lived out the sentiments of being young at heart. Instead of focusing on her own condition and complaining, she sought out social activities, brought a laugh and smile to many a doctor’s waiting room, was quick with a song or a joke and always wanted to know how you were doing. I recall with great happiness singing “Three Little Fishies” in her hospital room once, her belting out the Christmas song, “Up on the Rooftop,” in September and giggling. It’s hard to be sad when my thoughts of her bring a constant smile. Thanks, Bette, for being young at heart and allowing me to be with you on the last three years of your journey. You are a true role model.
As you begin your journey into 2013, I hope you’ll consider adding a resolution to become young at heart.
Sentimental Journey December 2012
Home for the holidays…
“I’m dreaming tonight of a place
I love even more then I usually do.
And although I know it’s a long road back,
I promise you….
I’ll be home for Christmas,
you can count on me.
Please have snow and mistletoe
and presents under the tree.
Christmas Eve will find me
where the love light beams.
I’ll be home for Christmas,
if only in my dreams.”
Bing Crosby first recorded “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” in 1943, and it immediately became a hit. It was penned as a poem from a soldier’s point of view during World War II who wasn’t coming home for the holidays. There is something about this song that is timeless and touches many deeply: not just for those who have loved ones fighting wars far away still today, but for those who geography, illness, economics and even death are keeping away from loved ones.
As Christmas seems to come earlier each year and we are inundated with commercials, sale flyers and Christmas decorations in stores before Halloween, we must remember that the holidays are not always a time of joy and celebration. For some, it’s a reminder of days gone by and our loved ones who are no longer with us. Home has such a personal meaning. Is it the home of our youth? Is it the place you live now? Is it thoughts of our heavenly home?
I recently attended the funeral of one of my clients. I know the family gathered around his graveside will grieve this holiday season, and it will be bittersweet. Even when you know your loved ones are no longer in pain, and they have finally found peace in their heavenly home, it can feel inconsolable to no longer have their presence with you.
Many clients I work with have had to leave their homes because of illness and loss of mobility or cognition that no longer make it safe for them to live alone independently. For clients residing in assisted living residences, nursing homes and often sharing rooms, the idea of being home for the holidays seems a far-off concept. The residences will do a wonderful job of cooking familiar holiday meals and offer gatherings. There is carol singing, and volunteers from area schools and churches often come by with crafts and good wishes. These things are so appreciated for the residents who call these communities home.
Since we cannot always change our circumstances, it’s much easier to change our attitude and way of coping. These are a few ideas I’ve used over the years. Think of what makes you happiest and gives you most comfort during the holidays. For some, it’s cooking a favorite family recipe and sharing it with a friend, or it’s playing some favorite holiday songs, watching a classic holiday movie or simply closing your eyes and reminiscing about favorite memories.
If I participate in a holiday activity, even if my heart doesn’t seem in it at the beginning, it can often turn around and become a moment of joy. Doing for others instead of concentrating on your own situation can be a great activity. There are countless opportunities for visiting with shut-ins, adopting a needy family to shop for if your own children are grown and far away and sharing your gifts and talents with those in need. Spread some holiday cheer this year, and it will warm your heart.
For those of us spending the holidays in a not so typical way, may this season be a blessing to you and your time with loved ones be special, “‘if only in your dreams.”
How are you marking the holidays this year? What are your favorite Christmas songs? Is there a tradition you greatly miss? I hope you’ll share.
Sentimental Journey November 2012
Three cheers for a good fight song
The air is crisp and cool, leaves are changing their colors, the days are shorter and I want nothing more than to keep a pot of soup or chili going in the kitchen. These kind of days are the perfect backdrop for my favorite fall pastime, football. Fall and football are the perfect combination. Allegiance to college alma maters run deep, and so do the rivalries. The easiest way to get the loyal fans riled up is for the band to start playing the fight song. Each team has one. We all have a personal bias that our team’s fight song is the best.
The other day I was at a client’s home and the husband started talking about football. Now this I can relate to. He’s an alumnus of Purdue University. I asked him to describe his favorite memories from attending football games while in college. He erupted into his school fight song, word for word.
“To your call once more we rally; alma mater hear our praise; where the Wabash spreads its valley; filled with joy our voices raise. Form the skies in swelling echoes come the cheers that tell the tale of your vict’ries and your heroes, hail Purdue! We sing all hail! Hail, hail to old Purdue! All hail to our old gold and black! Hail, hail to old Purdue! Our friendship may she never lack. Ever grateful, ever true, thus we raise our song anew of the days we’ve spent with you, all hail our own Purdue!”
I love the energy a marching band brings to a football game, especially when they play the college fight song. Recently, I was at my alma mater, Florida State University, for a football game. Since it was an away game for my beloved Seminoles, the band did not travel with the team. Without the Marching Chiefs to play our war chant and fight song, the atmosphere was lacking and so was the energy of the team evident, in their lackluster performance on the gridiron.
Music has such an important role in many of our favorite activities. I often focus on the soothing and calming effects music offers to clients and its power to unlock memories. Music can also stir and energize us to lift our mood. What is your college team’s fight song? Do you remember the lyrics? Is there a famous rivalry like Michigan vs. Ohio State, Boston College vs. Notre Dame, Army vs. Navy in your family? Write to me and share. Enjoy fall and football; I know I will.
Sentimental Journey October 2012
Let’s line dance…
Cupid Shuffle, Watermelon Crawl, Booty Call and Electric Slide are just some of the dances you can learn on Tuesday evenings at the Moore County Senior Enrichment Center. The Intro to Line Dancing class meets at 5:30 p.m. and fills quickly with men and women ranging in age from 50 to 86. Don’t let their ages fool you though. There is more pep in their step than people half their age.
When you enter the room, you are greeted by the talented and ever-faithful instructor, Victor Walk, of Whispering Pines, who has been teaching the class for three years. His full-time job is working for the Department of Defense at Fort Bragg. Years ago while stationed overseas, he had the opportunity to learn ballroom, line, square and Scottish dances. When he relocated back to North Carolina, he looked for an opportunity to give back and share his love of dance. His motto is three-fold: get people to exercise, have fun and learn how to dance.
“Keep coming back. I’ll give you a year to learn,” says Walk to his students.
Every Tuesday, he teaches the dance steps all over again. A beginner can come in any time and never feel behind.
Rebecca Lapping, 53, of Pinehurst, attends the Tuesday night class and teaches the Intermediate Line Dancing class offered every Saturday morning at 10:30 a.m. The intermediate class focuses on newer dances from genres like country and beach music, as well as old standards and hip-hop.
Lapping first became interested in line-dancing as a form of exercise following a double mastectomy. She had to find an exercise that focused on using her legs. Others in the class have joined after joint replacement surgery as a way to enjoy low-impact exercise and the fellowship of others.
Herman Thompson, 81, of Southern Pines, attends the Tuesday class. He wanted to find an exercise he could enjoy that wouldn’t be too much for him. He loves music, so the line-dancing class was a perfect fit.
“I love the camaraderie of everyone here. People are so friendly and the music really lifts your mood. You can’t help having a good time,” says Thompson.
Three friends who met at the Diners Club in Robbins come down to the beginners’ class together each week. Lydia Nails, 81, Marie Shamburger, 74, and Rachael Brower, 72, love their outing for the class.
Dorothy “Dot” Young, 86, of Pinehurst, has been a faithful line dancer.
“I love the exercise, music and to be with people. The music just makes the exercise more fun,” says Young.
You’re never too old to enjoy the power of music. I promise you will not be disappointed.
Sentimental Journey September 2012
Like the song says, ‘Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive’
Sometimes a lyric of a song can cut through a very difficult situation and provide the clarity you seek. The other day I was working with a couple who is facing the challenges or as I like to refer to them, “growth opportunities,” of growing up and growing old together. The husband recently had a car accident and was fortunately not hurt, but it was quite a wake-up call that his response times and judgment were not as sharp as they once were. There was also an incident of him leaving a pan of grease on a hot stove and forgetting it, realizing the oversight when the apartment started filling with smoke.
We all have moments of distraction. I remember in college running the bath water one night and going back into the kitchen to make a snack. I remembered I wanted to take a bath when I stepped in a puddle in the hallway. Not a fun surprise. I spent the evening extracting water from the bedroom carpet. We all make mistakes. God willing, we learn from them.
As I sat with my clients trying to come up with a safety plan for moving forward, tears started running down the husband’s face. He felt defeated that he would make two mistakes in such a short timeframe. As he was contemplating the gravity of what might have happened, his wife looked at him lovingly and said, “Honey, you are wonderful at the important things like hugs and loving me. You are the best husband I could ever have.” Sounds simple, yet so profound.
What are the most important things in life? I would venture to say when people look back on their lives, what matters most are the people we have loved and those that have loved us. We look back and wish for one more hug, more time spent with those we love, more time enjoying our favorite hobbies.
I looked at the wonderful couple in front of me and started re-framing all that was going right for them instead of those things that were going wrong. They were about to celebrate 64 years of marriage. They raised two wonderful children who are now raising families of their own.
When it came down to it, far more was going right than wrong. I told him, “It’s like the song, “You’ve got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative…” and he completed the line and sang, “And don’t mess with Mister In-between.”
We could take the negative, make a plan to work around it and focus on the positive things that they still did well. With a plan in place and a song in our hearts, we were able to move forward to the next challenge, realizing that the important things were going just right.
“Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive” was written by Harold Arlen and the lyrics by Johnny Mercer, and it was published in 1944. Mercer recorded the song with The Pied Pipers and Paul Weston’s orchestra, on Oct. 4, 1944.
Is there a favorite song lyric that helps you through a difficult situation? I do hope you’ll share.
Sentimental Journey August 2012
Back to “School Days”
This July, I had the inaugural milestone of sending my son to kindergarten. He’s on a ‘year-round’ schedule. It’s a big step starting school for the first time. The school supply lists are longer than any Christmas list I’ve ever seen. There are new school clothes to purchase, backpacks and lunch sacks to pack, school calendars to work around and teachers to meet. What an exciting a time in a person’s life.
When I asked one of my clients about her memories of school, a big smile crossed her face, and she burst out laughing. She said she remembered sitting in the back of the classroom almost the entire school year at a table by herself.
When I asked why, she said, “Because I wouldn’t stop chatting with my friends during class so the teacher had to separate us.”
So, she spent the entire year sitting in the back. And knowing her as well as I do, I can see why chatting with her friends was an issue. She is always quick with a kind word and happy to talk with anyone.
I asked her if she remembered a song that reminded her of her school days. She fondly remembers the song, “School Days.” With my handy smartphone, I looked up the song and found the lyrics to the familiar refrain. She promptly sang them out loud.
“School days, school days
Dear old golden rule days
Readin’ and ‘ritin’ and ‘rithmetic
Taught to the tune of the hickory stick
You were my queen in calico
I was your bashful barefoot beau
And you wrote on my slate, ‘I love you, Joe’
When we were a couple of kids.”
Both of us thought that was the entire song, but the song is a story about Joe and Nellie as old friends looking back on their days in primary school. The song was written in 1907 by Will Cobb and Gus Edwards and was a popular hit in 1949.
Is there a particular song that takes you back to your school days? I hope you’ll share.
Sentimental Journey July 2012
Berlin’s lyrics ring with patriotism
When I think of a stirring song of national pride, I should think of “The Star Spangled Banner” by Francis Scott Key. After all, it is our nation’s anthem. Even though I enjoy singing it, the majority of people find the one and a half octave range daunting.
I tend to prefer “God Bless America” by Irving Berlin as my patriotic song of choice. I don’t know if it’s because I grew up with my mom always singing it at patriotic celebrations or because each week I can rely on Bob Sylverstein to lead the Friday meetings of the Southern Pines Rotary Club with a rousing rendition. There is something about that song that brings a warm feeling to my soul. Maybe it’s the words, “From the mountains, to the prairies, to the oceans white with foam – God Bless America, my home sweet home!”
Maybe it’s thinking of the version made famous by Kate Smith. In 1938, with the rise of Hitler, Berlin, who was Jewish and a first-generation European immigrant, felt it was time to revive it as a “peace song,” and the song was introduced on an Armistice Day broadcast, sung by Smith on her radio show. It became an instant hit and threatened to replace our nation’s national anthem.
Berlin said, “A patriotic song is an emotion, and you must not embarrass an audience with it, or they will hate your guts,” and his philosophy made him one of America’s most outstanding writers of patriotic songs from World War I through World War II.
In World War II, he wrote the musical “This Is the Army,” which raised $10 million for the Army Emergency Relief. Berlin gave the royalties from the song “God Bless America” for redistribution to the Boy Scouts of America and the Girl Scouts of the USA.
“While the storm clouds gather far across the sea, let us swear allegiance to a land that’s free. Let us all be grateful for a land so fair, as we raise our voices in a solemn prayer. God bless America, land that I love. Stand beside her, and guide her through the night with a light from above. From the mountains, to the prairies, to the oceans, white with foam. God bless America, my home sweet home. God bless America, my home sweet home.”
Happy Independence Day, America! What is your favorite patriotic song?
June 2012: Finding love after loss
Years ago, I led grief support groups for a local funeral home. During that six-week class, we would remember our losses, share comfort together and strategize on how we could continue to live lives without our loved ones. For those who lost a spouse, loving another person seemed unfathomable. As time slowly heals the wounds from our losses, sometimes the unexpected happens, and we do love again.
I met Russ and Virginia in one of the groups. They became friends in the group and were able to open up about their losses to each other. It’s amazing to have the support of someone who has walked in your shoes and understands the loss. Their friendship grew, and over time, they realized they had fallen in love again…this time with each other. They dated and began to think of marriage. We continued to keep in touch, and they asked if I would sing at their wedding. I was honored to partake in their special ceremony.
I loved the song they chose, “Always,” written by Irving Berlin in 1925. I’m an Irving Berlin fan from childhood thanks to my mom and her musical friends. They put a tribute show of Irving Berlin songs together, which included some of America’s most beloved songs: “God Bless America,” “White Christmas,” “Easter Parade,” “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” “Blue Skies,” “Putting on the Ritz,” “Cheek to Cheek,” and the list goes on. In my opinion, Berlin is the most amazing and prolific songwriter our country has ever known, and his music has left an indelible imprint on his beloved, adopted America.
Berlin’s first marriage ended in tragedy. His wife, singer Dorothy Goetz, contracted pneumonia and typhoid fever on their honeymoon to Cuba. She died five months after their wedding in 1912 at the age of 20. Her death inspired Berlin’s song, “When I Lost You.”
Berlin wasn’t sure he could love another after the death of his first wife, but somehow love found its way into his life again. In 1926, he married Ellin MacKay, their marriage lasted 62 years, and they had four children. He wrote the song, “Always,” for her and assigned the rights and royalties to her as a wedding gift.
If there is only one true love or just one soulmate in the world for you, it seems to undermine a theory that you can have many kinds of love in your life at various times. To me, love is a continuum, and it brings all kinds of people and situations into your path to learn from and share with. From romantic love to deep and lasting friendships, love in families and love of children, each experience of love causes you to grow and be changed. Love can come at any age and when you least expect it. After all, love is timeless and ageless.
May 2012: Hardest times easier when “Side by Side”
A line from a song by John Lennon and Paul McCartney from 1967 sums up my thoughts on friendship: “I get by with a little help from my friends.” How true. I can’t imagine going through a difficult situation without help from my friends. The other day I had the opportunity to help a client transition from his home and move out of state. As with any of us who are making big changes, there were anxieties and fear. Moving is hard for any of us at any age. I often think it gets harder the longer we’ve lived in one place.
There is no way he could have managed the packing, getting medical records together and organizing for the move out of state alone. I was honored to help. For two weeks prior to the move, we diligently sorted items. We scheduled doctor appointments to gather medical records and worked with his family out-of-state to facilitate the transfer of information to his new assisted living residence.
My client was melancholy as we loaded up my car and turned the key in the lock of his home for the last time. He saw the tree in bloom that he and his wife had planted when they moved in. His eyes filled with tears as we pulled out of the driveway. He had recently lost his wife, so this move was even more painful alone.
It was starting to rain outside, and I said that it was perfect weather to say goodbye, that even Mother Nature was shedding tears knowing of his pain. I wasn’t sure how the next hour or so were going to be. I was very grateful that I have satellite radio in my car, and I found myself choosing the familiar 40’s on 4 station as our backdrop. The best investment I ever made was continuing my radio subscription. It has helped in the most difficult of situations.
The day of the move required a drive to the Raleigh-Durham International Airport and a hand-off of suitcases and documents to the devoted family member, who had flown down to escort him on the journey to his new home.
As we headed north on U.S. 1 from Pinehurst, various songs played. He poured out stories and memories of seeing certain bands on the Steel Pier, his opinion on singers and genres and a mixture of emotions. During one song, he kept rhythm by hitting his knee and on a sweet ballad, tears again rolled down his face.
We laughed at the silly images from “Swinging on a Star” and picked on each other when we forgot various lyrics.By the time we hit Interstate 40 westbound, we were having a great time. As we neared the airport exit and as if on cue, the song “Side by Side” by the Gene Krupa Orchestra with Anita O’Day on vocals from 1942 came on the radio.
“Oh! We ain’t got a barrel of money; maybe we’re ragged and funny. But we travel along, singing a song, side by side. Don’t know what’s comin’ tomorrow; maybe it’s trouble and sorrow, but we’ll travel along, sharin’ our load, side by side. Through all kinds of weather, what if the sky should fall? Just as long as we’re together, it doesn’t really matter at all. When they’ve all had their quarrels and parted, we’ll be just the same as we started. Just traveling along, singin’ a song, side by side.”
Life is sometimes hard, and we often face challenges. May you always have someone by your side to share your burdens and your joy.
April 2012: My favorite things…
“Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens.
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens.
Brown paper packages tied up with strings.
These are a few of my favorite things.”
The song, “My Favorite Things” is a show tune from the 1959 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, “The Sound of Music.” As a child, it had a profound impact on me. I think it started with watching the movie and seeing Maria turn a scary night of thunderstorms into a fun, memorable evening for the Von Trapp children. One by one, they came to her room scared of the thundering storm. The younger children quickly admitted to being scared of the storm. The older children came one by one to find refuge but tried to play down their fear.
At any age, fears are real. Maybe it is socially acceptable to be a 4-year-old scared of monsters. I know plenty of people in their 40s scared of spiders, flying on planes or public speaking. So it would be safe for me to conjecture that there are older adults afraid of living alone, a catastrophic illness or moving into a nursing facility. Fear is real, and sometimes there is not much we can do to change the circumstances we encounter.
Although we cannot change our circumstances, we can change our reaction to them. So in the face of adversity, we can think of our favorite things instead of those that bother us the most. Raindrops on roses make me happy. Music, hugs, a favorite meal, a card from a friend, a smile, a sassy pair of shoes, a good cup of coffee…those are a few of my favorite things. Click the picture to hear “My Favorite Things”
As we age, it’s still possible to experience your favorite things. Maybe a long road-trip to a far off destination is not possible, but enjoying a picture book of a place you once enjoyed can take you on a virtual trip. Perhaps a night out of dancing is no longer doable, but you can play your favorite songs, and close your eyes and remember. If you’ve downsized to a small apartment in a senior residence, you can still decorate with treasured items.
At every juncture in our life, we have the opportunity to focus on the good or on the bad. I hope that when life comes at you with scary moments, you can be like Maria in the “Sound of Music” and think of your favorite things, “and then you won’t feel so bad.”
March 2012: Sounds of music all around…
“The hills are alive with the sound of music, with songs they have sung, for a thousand years. The hills fill my heart, with the sound of music. My heart wants to sing every song it hears. My heart wants to beat like the wings of the birds that rise from the lake to the trees. My heart wants to sigh like a chime that flies from a church on a breeze, to laugh like a brook when it trips and falls over stones on its way. To sing through the night, like a lark who is learning to pray. I go to the hills when my heart is lonely. I know I will hear what I heard before. My heart will be blessed with the sound of music and I’ll sing once more.”
The title song from “The Sound of Music,” was composed by Richard Rodgers to lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. The opening image of Maria swirling around on top of the Austrian hills at the beginning of the movie as the orchestra swells stirs something. Each image in the lyrics takes us to a different place: on the wings of a bird, the top of a church steeple and water cascading over river rock in a brook. That is just what sounds of music do.
A tune or melody can take us to a place we may never have been to before – kind of like a mini-vacation. Once on a trip to Salzburg, Austria, I had an informal tour of places used in the filming of “The Sound of Music.” Something about seeing that gazebo made me think I was Liesl dancing around the inside proclaiming, “I am sixteen going on seventeen.” The movie is a part of our culture and a part of my childhood. (Click the album cover to hear the song!)
My favorite lines from the title song are: “I go to the hills when my heart is lonely. I know I will hear what I heard before. My heart will be blessed with the sound of music and I’ll sing once more.”
I have a need to connect with nature in order to feel balance in my world. A walk in the woods is good for my soul. I don’t know if it is the need to get away from the hectic schedule of life necessarily. I go to reconnect and just listen to croaking frogs, the whispering of birch tree leaves, birdsong, the rustling of dry grasses in the wind and to smell the aromatic breezes scented by the pines.
It is easy to stay connected to the songs in my heart when I take the time to enjoy a walk in the woods. Does nature move you? Has music come alive for you while enjoying a walk outside? I would love to hear about the sounds of music in your life.
February 2012: March to your own beat
It is hard to stay unhappy when you hear a marching band. At least, that is what a client of mine told me. We were sitting in a doctor’s office on a cold rainy day. I asked her if on a day like this, would she want to listen to music to match the day and curl up under a blanket, or would she prefer music that would perk up her mood. She said she would definitely want music that would dispel the gloomy weather, and nothing is better at that than a good John Phillip Sousa march. I had to agree with her. Just hearing a marching band could greatly improve my mood and want me to join in the parade.
Perhaps that is why another client recently chose a Sousa march to be included in her memorial service. She chose Sousa’s, “The Thunderer,” to be played during the service. She was right. It was beautiful and touching. We all smiled during that thunderous Sousa march, just the way she had hoped. (Click the CD cover below to hear Sousa’s “The Thunderer”)
I recently saw a television program with Andre Rieu, known affectionately as the Waltz King. Rieu is a 62-year-old Dutchman, classically trained violinist, who has made his goal to bring the joy of music to everyone. The story opened with the playing of “Seventy-Six Trombones”, from the popular musical “The Music Man,” and a full-parade of all the musicians to the stage for their concert. I was hookedn and it seems I’m not alone. The audience was standing in their seats clapping to the march, too. Rieu’s hero is Johann Strauss, and he has made it his goal to make people happy by sharing his love of waltzes.
Music, whether it is a march or waltz or whatever genre is your favorite, can change your mood. Knowing what type of music can improve our mood and having it nearby is key. In a culture where it has become accepted practice to take a pill to change our mood, why not try the old standard of playing a favorite tune.