“The Power of Music” headlined an article for the March 2013 edition of AARP Magazine. Having experienced some of that power in many instances in my life, including a dark-haired young man who could make a piano talk that I met when I was sixteen, I put the article into my blog possibilities folder. (Just in case you were wondering, the dark-haired young man is no longer young and the little hair that’s left is gray, but he can still make a piano talk!) The article lists many uses for the relatively new field of music therapy, including Parkinson’s disease, depression, strokes, and many others. I began to contemplate music, not just for health crises, but as a lifelong necessity.
Yearning for music is there from life’s beginnings. I’ve always known the Butler babies – children and grandchildren – had a serious problem when singing failed to soothe their crying. When our first was about eighteen months old, one long night of croup had him leaning against my shoulder and listening between coughing spells as I walked and sang. Finally, his quiet indicated he had dropped off to sleep. I stopped singing. He didn’t open his eyes, but dragged his finger across my lips down to my chin. I got his message, and “Rock-a-bye, Baby” began again.
In time, lullabies are outgrown and teenagers pick up music that leaves older generations mumbling about “that awful noise.” With our children, it also included piano lessons x 3, a trumpet, a flute, a cello, and after school small group sessions practicing for choir competitions. In the grandchildren generation, a favorite picture has a Maryland and an Arizona cousin bonding with shared music, one ear bud apiece.
I won’t get into adulthood wars over church music that bring out some unsaintly attitudes. I certainly won’t point at people who choose a church based on its variety of music because four fingers would be pointing back at me!
It was the listing of Alzheimer’s Disease in the AARP Magazine article that struck a responsive chord with me. [Yes, I meant the pun. I’m Daddy’s daughter.] Long after the disease had robbed Mama of her ability to read or spell or call our names, she remembered the words to the old hymns. In the laugh-so-you-don’t-cry department, my sisters and I smiled at her insistence on holding the hymnbook for the blind lady who sat next to her when groups came to sing at the home where she lived. She didn’t need the book. She knew the words by heart.
A more recent article in USA Today about Glen Campbell’s battle with Alzheimer’s quotes his wife “. . . music is so deeply ingrained in your brain. One music therapist said it works every part of your brain at once. That’s the reason it’s the last thing you lose.”
Bruce Springsteen has been quoted as saying, “The best music is essentially there to provide you something to face the world with.” As I think of more than one friend who has sung a loved one from this life into the next, I would add, “from the cradle to the grave.”