Joy In The Journey

With the celebration of the Thanksgiving holiday behind us, many people turn their attention to Christmas shopping and the numerous tasks at hand which can no longer be postponed. For me, my attentions don’t immediately gravitate to shopping and presents (though that will come). At this time of year (more than at any other time of year) my thoughts turn to family.

It’s difficult for me to imagine the challenge of doing Christmas when there are empty chairs at the table. That’s when I remind myself military families experience this challenge all the time. One of my favorite songs of the season is linked in the YouTube above. One thing that sets this song apart from standard Christmas music is the touching way in which greetings of military families are interspersed with the song itself.

Family (at least for me) is woven into the fabric of the holidays. When the first Christmas song gets played (usually by me), my thoughts turn to my mother and siblings, my mother-in-law, her son (my Beloved) and all the sibling in-laws, each of my precious children (all now grown) as well as my wealth of adorable grandchildren. Of course, each connection becomes more dear with each passing year.

My love of music is also woven into that fabric. Some of my first memories are Christmas music. (This might be explained by the fact I was born on Christmas Day.) From my young years, we were usually involved in the church Christmas programs, presentations that included lots of music. My parents encouraged a love of music in their offspring.

A curious thing happened when I married my Beloved. He loves music (though it isn’t an animating force in his life as it is in mine) and he actually has a fine voice to sing. But he has always been restrained, perhaps even awkward about singing. On the few occasions I hear him singing in church (he’s right there next to me), this is an extra blessing for me! When he was a boy, his daddy played cornet and his mother has always played piano … but the approach to music in their home seems somehow different from what I experienced during my childhood.

When I married into the family, it should have been natural for me to interact with my mother-in-law about music … at least, I think it should have been natural. Our shared love of music should have been an easy and automatic entrée … but I can’t recall one conversation she and I shared about music. Nor can I recall when my father-in-law bought the grand piano she loved, an instrument that sits in her living room today. She played well once and I admired her for keeping her fingers (which had been damaged in an automobile accident and then later twisted with arthritis) limber.

Before she had cataract surgery (a year or two ago), the surgeon queried her about what it was the cataracts prevented her from doing that she would look forward to doing again following the surgery. Without hesitation, she told him she was eager to play the piano again. After the surgery and follow-up visits when we knew her vision had been remarkably improved, we urged her to begin playing again. Sadly, I think the effects of dementia made her goal too hard to reach.

And my sense was it would be unkind to continue urging her to play … but because music is so integral to my life, I grieved she couldn’t enjoy what I consider such a blessing. Then we saw this video.

Needless to say, we were impressed. (There are other similar videos I’ve since run across.) After my Beloved and I talked about it a bit, I went out today and bought an iPad Shuffle for my mother-in-law. I’ve loaded it up with music from CDs to which she once enjoyed listening. Given her former love for music, I’m hopeful (we’re hopeful) this will be a means of awakening a part of her brain that isn’t ravaged by the dementia.

We’re as excited as a couple of second-graders at Christmas time! Even if there’s no apparent change (like what the seniors in the video experience), we’re hopeful that gently delivering the sounds of music to her again will be a means for injecting simple joy into her remaining days. That would be our early Christmas wish.

Renée