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The power of music (and stories) - PersonalEyes

Sometimes it’s really amazing how the universe works for us. I mean, I have this platform to share Empowering Stories to Inspire Change, right? And I talk a lot about the power of stories and how stories can give people hope or inspiration when they need it.

Just the other day, I visited my mother-in-law at the home where she’s staying. My mother-in-law is quite a remarkable person. When I first met her, I was amazed at how direct she was at people, but we got along really well since day 1. Over the past years, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. It’s a sad disease, Alzheimer’s. It’s creating raw potholes in people’s memories and it connects dots that weren’t actually connected in the past.

For 18 months now, my mum-in-law stays at this wonderful home where the nursing staff truly love their patients. One of the residents is an elderly lady, let’s call her Cathy. She is one of my favourite residents. She’s a true lady, and cheerful and cheeky at times. However, her memory is deteriorating fast and that leaves her being confused and sad.

When I arrived the other day, Cathy was sitting in a chair and I could tell by the look in her eyes that it was a bad day for her. She was confused, mumbling to herself that she needed to get away, but then she looked at me quizzically, asking me where she could go to. In the next few minutes, she kept on asking that question. It broke my heart to see her like that.

But then I remembered the story of Ted McDermott, the Songaminute Man. This 80-year old former singer is suffering from Alzheimer’s too. His son Simon shares stories and videos on Facebook of him and his dad singing in the car. Even though Ted’s Alzheimer’s takes more control of Ted’s brain every day, the singing reminds Ted of his former career and reconnects him to his family. His singing and his music bring him back to life.

Remembering this amazing story, I remembered that Cathy loves music too. Her favourite singer is John Denver. In the midst of her brain being all confused and sad, I started to sing for her (as John Denver used to be my guilty pleasure: oh-oh, what a confession!)).

Cathy looked up at me, puzzled. But then she recognized the song, a smile came to her face and she started to sing along; ‘Ay Calypso, the places you’ve been to, the things you’ve shown us, the stories you tell…’. And then we sang ‘Annie’s Song’, and’ Thank God I’m a country boy’. For a few moments that afternoon, Cathy was human again; her confusion and sadness were forgotten.

Most probably, if I wouldn’t have seen Ted McDermott’s story, I wouldn’t have started to sing with Cathy. But now I knew it might bring back a part of her memory, at least for a moment. The nurses had tears in their eyes at the sight of Cathy enjoying the song and remembering all the lyrics. They vowed to play her favourite John Denver songs, as now they knew how they could help her.

And yet again, I’ve got another reason to keep sharing empowering stories that inspire change. Ted McDermott’s story is one of them and his story inspired a new one. A great reminder of my motto: ‘My story could be your medicine, and your story could be mine’.