“I'm never gonna know what you go through
All the things I say or do
All the hurt and all the pain
One thing selfishly remains
I'm not gonna miss you
I'm not gonna miss you”
-Glen Campbell, “I’m Not Gonna Miss You”
Growing up, I would watch my mom and my Great Aunt Dorothy sit at our kitchen table for hours. They gossiped about family, debated politics, discussed the weather, and reminisced about Dorothy’s childhood memories and her time spent as a young woman working in the Marines and Army throughout the 1940’s, long before my mom was born. They bonded over music, specifically Elvis, The Beatles and a peculiar song called “Freckles” by Nora Bayes. It was her favorite song, and one her father loved to sing to her as a child.
This was their ritual, their safe space. Every holiday involved Dorothy. At least once a month my mom made the hour-long drive to take Dorothy out to lunch. In between visits, you could count on Dorothy to call my mom every few weeks. These memories are ingrained in my brain, and I know my mom feels the same. They are something we cherish and will never forget.
Now, though, visiting Dorothy makes my mom nervous—mostly because it makes Dorothy nervous. Several years ago, Dorothy was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. My mom is nervous that Dorothy won’t remember her. Dorothy is nervous because there is a stranger in her home.
A story like ours isn’t uncommon. The Alzheimer’s Association reports that 1 in 3 seniors die with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia, while 16 million caregivers, like my family, care for them. Alzheimer’s disease isn’t just devastating for the person affected, but for the family as well.
After Dorothy’s diagnosis, my mom watched as Dorothy’s memory began to fade. Although she would eventually forget nearly everything and everyone she once knew, Dorothy could still recite “Freckles” word for word.
The Magic of Music
Something a person with Alzheimer’s tends to remember, regardless of age or faded memory, is music. The melodies from different times in their lives flood them with emotion and bring them back to times once forgotten.
Music can also help those grieving, even if their loved one is still here. Glen Campbell famously wrote the song, “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” after his diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. Ed Sheeran wrote the song “Afire Love” for his late grandfather who battled Alzheimer’s. And there are many more.
On Day 17 of #thankacaregiver, we remember those who cannot remember us anymore, and thank those who can through song.
I'm Not Gonna Miss You, Glen Campbell
Afire Love, Ed Sheeran
While He Still Knows Who I Am, Kenny Chesney
Forever Changed, Carrie Underwood
Blank Stares, Jay Allen
Freckles, Nora Bayes