A Song for a Moment

Notes on Creativity theme of the week:
Healing through Creativity

As a teenager, I volunteered at a nursing home for a number of years. I loved going there, listening to the same old stories over and over, smiling at the hunched over figures parked in wheelchairs at the front desk.  

Most of the residents did nothing all day, just sat and looked with vacant eyes at their surroundings.

There were, however, daily activities for those who didn’t protest at being wheeled or walked to the lounge areas. There were story-readings, crafts, piano playing, even the occasional visit from community children. But one activity stood out to me more than all the others.

Twice a week there was a sing-along. Most of the songs were from an era well before mine. I would watch in awe as the mood in the room changed- hands clapped, heads nodded, smiles broke out. And voices! Oh, to hear these passive, passive people sing softly, then more loudly, a little more, and finally with gusto as the songs erupted.

One lady in particular amazed me. She was sweet and quiet, not much of a stand out. But when she let out her voice, I’m sure heaven opened up. She had been a glamorous professional singer when she was young. Nothing of those days was left, except that powerful, crystal clear voice. When she sang, I no longer saw her as a shadow in the halls, but rather as vibrant, youthful, beautiful- a star! I wished that moment would go on for her.

But, as the songs ended and music faded, she too faded back into her  identity as a slumped figure in the corner, a rag doll placed back in the toy box. How I wished for her to keep the music playing in her mind so that she could keep on singing.

Image source

Today’s 4 Minute Writer      

The Coat

The smell of mothballs wrinkles my nose. I blink, turn away, and regain my composure. This is the right box. I remove a yellowing veil, then a round-collared suit jacket, and peer into the bottom of the box. There it is, just as I had remembered it.

I hesitate. Just seeing grandma’s light blue tweed jacket floods my mind with images of the linoleum floor in her kitchen, the rickety chair I stood on to get to the counter, her taking my hand and giving me Georgie, my favourite stuffed bear.

I unfold the coat and put it on, staring at myself in the mirror. For a moment I see her face looking back at me. She is smiling, a tear in her eye.

Image source

Use the comment field to suggest a topic, submit your writing on today’s 4 Minute Writer topic (The Coat) or to comment.



Filed under Creativity, Writing

14 responses to “A Song for a Moment

  1. Getting old has always worried me, Zoe. This post gives me some courage. You are on quite a journey here. You remind me of a hobbit setting out from the Shire, holding a powerful ring.

    I shall think about this post all day.

  2. This makes me think of the days when our Connections Christian Church gathering would lead a church service at the Brentwood Care Nursing Home. I loved to watch the eyes light up and hear the voices ring out as we sang old hymns.

    • I know there are societal reasons we have nursing homes, but there are far too many seniors who are in homes like the one you mention and don’t want to be there. What a moment of freedom for them to have a group come to lead them in singing hymns that stir up memories and connections within them.

  3. Now I understand “Today’s 4 Minute Writer”. What a sweet reminiscent story of a grandmother’s love felt once again through her coat from years ago. I loved the nursing home experience you describe. I have seen such song services held in nursing homes while visiting people there. It is amazing how they come alive to the old songs that are buried deep in their souls. Blessings to you, Zoe…

    • It is amazing, isn’t it, how deeply songs from so long ago can affect us. I’m glad that besides all the ad jingles there are some profound songs buried deep in me too.
      Thanks for the comment.

  4. It really is amazing how a sense of purpose can make such a difference in people’s lives. I read a book called “Blue Zones” about the lifestyles of people who live the longest and they found that one thing each of the 4 culturally diverse groups had in common was a sense of purpose. In each case, old people were kept busy, whether that meant helping grandchildren with homework, working in the garden, etc. I think we are happier when working and our minds are not as likely to turn to mush as well!

    • I love that you wrote about “Blue Zones”. A friend of mine moved to Nicoya, Costa Rica which is one of those zones- that’s not why she moved there, but it’s not a bad choice if you’re going to move. I’m copying the info below from the site http://www.coldwellbanker.cr/health_longevity.php as it really is interesting to see the factors they list (which include the ones you mentioned) as contributing to the longevity and health in these zones.

      Costa Rica Blue Zone

      For the past five years, Dan Buettner with National Geographic has been taking teams of scientists to pockets around the world where people live the longest, healthiest lives. He has named these areas Blue Zones. Last year, Mr. Buettners team discovered the largest Blue Zones in the World in Costa Rica on the Nicoya Peninsula. In the Nicoya Blue Zones adults have the longest life expectancy in the world. Dan Buettners team found eight factors that make this region one of the longest-lived in the world.

      Water: The water in the Blue Zones has a high calcium content. Primarily calcium strengthens bones and prevents falls from being serious.

      Family: People in Blue Zones tend to live as a couple, with children and grandchildren from whom they get support.

      Faith: Most of the people in Blue Zones have a strong belief in God. They relinquished the pressures of the day to a higher power. Their faith provides relief from stress and a connection with their community.

      Fruit: People located in the Blue Zones eat many tropical fruits ultra rich in antioxidants, including papaya and citrus which they eat all year long.

      Diet: Residents in Blue Zones core diet is based around maize. The corn is soaked in an alkaline solution, a tradition dating back 3500 years, to create a compound called nixtamal. It’s a complete food high in niacin, calcium and amino acids.

      Lifelong Work: People in Blue Zones seem to have enjoyed physical work all their lives. It was their main form of exercise and they did it almost everyday.

      Life Plan: Successful people in Blue Zones have a passion for living and a clear purpose. They feel needed and want to contribute to the greater good beyond just themselves.

      Happiness: Costa Rica scores top of international well being surveys. People in Blue Zones have higher levels of endorphins and stronger immune systems, they are interesting and interested in others and keep learning throughout their life.

  5. This post reminded me of visiting my grandmother in a nursing home years ago, and how sad I always thought she was, but when we asked her to tell us stories about when she was young, her eyes would light up and she would even speak English to make sure I understood, while to her nurses she would only speak German. Thanks for sparking a nice memory.

  6. I wonder if our childhood memories become more special to us the older we get. If you ask me now to talk about my childhood, I could tell you stories without getting emotional. But, when I get to be the age your grandmother was, will those same memories make my eyes light up? It could very well be…

  7. V

    I loved “The Coat”. It made me cry….. it’s a good thing.

  8. I loved this post Zoë – a couple of years ago I did some volunteer work with a lady who had Alzheimers – she was still physically fit and I used to take her out walking once a fortnight – she lived in a room in the secure section of an old-aged home and her family had brought her piano there. It astounded me that she would not know who I was on any visit (although, her wonderful manners meant she tried to cover this up – strange manifestations, this Alzheimers) but she could still play her piano beautifully and withoutmusic or error.

    And the coat reminded me of my paternal grandmother – I still have a box of her long gloves.

    I am really enjoying your wonderful blog and hope you don’t mind me adding you to my blogroll. bb

    • It’s gems like the moment you describe- the beautiful piano playing contrasted against tremendous loss- that bring out that feeling of awe in us.
      I am honoured to be added to your blogroll- thank you.

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