“What are you listening to?” my co-worker, Jane, asked, as she walked into my office.
“It’s Andrea Bocelli,” I replied. “I work better with music in the background.”
“Music has magic. Have you noticed how much the residents enjoy the music in the dining room?”
“Music can be very powerful.” I said, sighing. Talking about music brought special memories to my mind of a few nursing home residents.
Dorothy was one of those special memories. She was a sweet lady, but rather quiet. She normally immersed herself in observing what was going on around her, but wouldn’t say much. Her main interest was being outdoor, on the gazebo, looking at the Ozark’s hills. In the winter, she changed her preferred view to the lake. Winter was the only time of the year when the lake was visible from the facility which sat perched on the top of the hill.
During my visits with Dorothy she had few answers to my questions. She was a lady of few words. Although Dorothy had early stages of dementia, I felt her silence was more her own choice of keeping to herself rather than a cognitive deficit. A way to preserve her secrets. She and her late husband had a private life. With no children or close family, they were known for keeping a quiet and peaceful home. Dorothy kept that peace in her solitude.
One weekend I was assigned to coordinate an activity for the residents. I decided to take some of the residents to the patio and have a music activity playing Nat King Cole songs. It was a beautiful morning. The weather was comfortable. The residents enjoyed snacks and conversation as the music started to play. With some encouragement, Dorothy attended the group activity, probably because it was held outside.
Although everyone seemed to be enjoying the music, Dorothy’s eyes suddenly sparkled and a big smile blossomed on her face like never before.
I drew close to Dorothy, amazed at her transformation.
“Dorothy, do you like that song?” I softly asked her.
“Yes, it reminds me of my boyfriend” Dorothy said. “We were in high school”
Is this the Dorothy I know? I pondered. My jaw dropped, and I smiled with excitement as I was anxious to hear more.
When Dorothy spoke, she opened her heart. She told me about her high school sweetheart, their walks, dances, and holding hands. That was the longest and most delightful conversation that I have had with Dorothy in her two years as a resident of the facility. I spent about fifteen minutes listening to her captivating and charming memories.
My heart pounded as I listened to Dorothy recount her memories. What an honor it was to listen to her lovely recollections. Fond memories which were ignited by the music of Nat King Cole.
I looked at Dorothy’s beautiful smile again.
And I wished the music would never stop.
"...Trying to reach out to you,
Touch my hand,
Reach out as far as you can,
Only me, only you, and the band,
Trying to reach out to you,
Touch my hand,
Can't let the music stop,
Can't let this feeling end,
Cause if I do it'll all be over,
I'll never see you again..."