Things We Do for Love
Blog – 5-25-18
I lost my father 18 years ago on Memorial Day weekend. He battled dementia and strokes for nine long years. It was a heartbreaking journey for Mom and our family, and we all still miss him terribly. That’s my Mom and Dad in the picture above.
As most of you know, I grew up singing with my four sisters. Mom is a beautiful seamstress, and she made us adorable matching dresses. We were cool – or so we thought! Here’s a picture to prove how adorable we were! (I’m the geeky one in the front row on the left!)
And the sweetest thing is, our Dad was our biggest fan. He loved listening to his little girls sing. During his long journey through dementia, music was the last thing that reached him. Tragically, he had no language and didn’t speak a single solitary word the last four years of his life. Even worse than that, he didn’t seem to recognize us most of the time either.
But up to the end, music was the one thing that reached him. When I would visit, I would always sing an old hymn to him before I left. Usually he stared blankly back at me as I talked to him, or didn’t even seem to notice I was there, but the minute I would sing his eyes would gaze into mine and I would see a hint of remembrance. He knew I was there and who I was.
Every so often Mom would gather all of us girls together and we would give Dad a little concert right there in the dementia unit at Sunrise. Dad would look so intently at all of us and sometimes even try to sing. It was sad but incredibly beautiful to see how music still had the ability to touch him.
As time has gone on, however, I realize that the one it touched the most was our Mom. It meant so much to her that we kept on singing for Dad.
Every Memorial Day weekend all of us kids and Mom meet for breakfast, and then we all head to the cemetery and visit Dad’s grave together. We laugh about old times, we wonder if Dad is turning over in his grave at how thin the grass is above him (his yards were always pure perfection!) and then we sing. Yes, we sing!
The first year Mom asked us to sing, it felt pretty awkward. My sisters and I gave each other “the look” that said, “I really don’t want to do this, but I guess we have to to make Mom happy.” There’s also that “Honor thy parents” commandment that ran through our brains. So we stood in the middle of the cemetery and we sang.
We sang Dad’s favorite song, “Whispering Hope,” and some other old songs he loved. I’m not sure if Dad could hear us or not, that’s something we will never know this side of heaven, but Mom knew. Mom was touched. And in the process, we were all moved as well.
And that simple act has now become a tradition. Every year we do the same exact thing.
We often wonder what people must think as we stand there singing to a gravestone, but it doesn’t really matter. The thing is, it matters so very much to Mom. It’s a way for us to honor her and our father. Mom even made it very clear last year that we had better come and sing to her too when she joins Dad or she would come back and haunt us.
I guess the tradition will continue!
It feels a little weird at times, to be honest, it may even sound a little weird to you, but guess what, I know where you will find us after Mom is gone. Yes, we will all be at the grave of the parents who loved us so well and gave us so much and we will be singing the songs they have always loved.
It’s just one of the things you do for love!
As we celebrate Memorial Day, I hope you will take time to remember those you love. I pray you will also take a moment to say a prayer for the brave men and women who serve this great country we live in, and pray for the families who have lost loved ones in order to give us this amazing gift of freedom.
And if someone you love asks you to do something that maybe doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to you, maybe it even seems a little silly, I pray you will do it. Just do it. If it makes them happy, then it’s so worth it.
And tomorrow if you see a group of people singing in the cemetery, they’re really not crazy. It’s just things we do for love!
Hugs and love,