My Grandma came to live with the family when she was in her late 80’s. She’d been in decline for some years and was no longer able to live on her own. Eventually she wasn’t able to live with the family anymore either, and saw out the final months of her life in a nearby nursing home.
Every day we would spend hours visiting her. Throughout her life, music was a joy for Gran. My childhood memories of her singing are as clear as her shrill voice was. I remember the deep sense of comfort and happiness I felt in my little boy heart when she sang to and with me.
As her condition deteriorated, it was a sweet privilege to be able to reverse the roles. Her mind became more childlike as her dementia worsened but music cut through the disorientation and brought her genuine peace and joy. In sharp contrast to the discomfort and distress she so often seemed to feel, Gran would sing along with all the verve and enthusiasm of a child, and the effects of our song sessions lingered beyond the moment itself. She was more at ease and remained conversant long after the last note had rung out. It’s a phenomenon I’ve witnessed countless times since.
Eventually we lost my Grandmother. The void her absence leaves can never be filled, but the silver lining was that I gained multiple Grandma’s and Grandpa’s through those final months with Gran. The visits to the nursing home always attracted a crowd as the magnetic pull of the music would weave its spell. Residents of the home, hobbled, shuffled, wheeled, and in the case of the more spritely, walked or even danced their way to the source of the sounds that drew them in. After Gran’s passing, I’d continue to visit every Saturday afternoon and there’d always be a crowd waiting in the common living room where we’d share our musical moments. People who had trouble remembering loved ones names or the fact that they even lived in a nursing home would remember and look forward to Saturday afternoon. The memories that songs would unearth were spellbinding and heartwarming. Often people would thank me for my “generous gesture” as if me being there was a selfless act. Truth is, I got at least as much out of those visits as my dear elderly friends did. To be part of such glorious human interaction is a profound blessing that I continually carry in my heart. Over the years, I’ve lost more “grandparents” and it cuts deep every time. But deeper still is the sense of gratitude for the moments shared and the memories made. Music, can’t shield us from the inevitable but it can certainly soften the harder realities of life. It is a healer.
In my own life I’ve experienced the healing power of music and many times witnessed it in the lives of others. Music brings connection. I’ve felt that very deeply over many years of playing gigs, feeling the warmth of people who are sharing in a magical exchange between artist and audience. When I hear people tell stories of how a song I’ve written has rescued them from despair, helped them cope with grief or loss, or been the soundtrack to a euphoric experience or a beautiful chapter in their life, it’s truly humbling. It makes you realise music isn’t mere trivial entertainment. There’s a vital, essential power to it that can heal, transform and transcend.
I’ll be using this site to regularly post stories of healing encounters from my own personal experience and from my experiences with others. It would bring me great joy to know that you’ve found these stories helpful or meaningful in any way. Feel free to add comments or share your own experiences.
More music to you,
Gran was a beautiful lady. Her smile always lit up the room. I knew her for 30 years, whenever she visited Craig and Erica I would go and see her and her twinkling eyes and lovely laugh.
Hi Stewart. That’s a beautiful description of Gran. I can still hear the music of her laughter. Thanks for sharing the memory.
Hey Josh, almost 20yrs ago UI listened to your song Up All Night, on repeat , while living in Europe, trying to sort out my life direction…. things just didn’t seem right.
I returned back to Oz and settled (eventually ) but yeah your words and music have cut though and impacted many a time in my life. Its a gift that I’m so glad that you enjoy sharing.
Thanks so much for sharing Lee-Anne. It’s amazing to think that a song you wrote camping on the side of the road in western NSW by a wheat stubble field under the moonlight can impact someone in Europe! Music is incredible.
What a beautiful memory and to share with other grandparents your love of music. Keep sharing your talents
My nan was a rag time piano player in an era where mechanics institute halls boughed with dances across the country. She made a career playing at dances, weddings, funerals and birthdays.
In her 70s she suffered a stroke and lived out her life in a care centre.
She couldn’t speak and her eyes were vacant but if you sat her at a piano…
she would close her eyes and play…
magic is the music that awakens our spirit.
I saw it in her face at the elderly home when you played for her. It should be done all over the country, it makes such a difference.
I did this at the aged care home my Dad was in. I always struggled with what songs to play. He was in high care and residents were not too communicative. Any recommendations? He has since past but I almost feel ready to back and have a sing.