Sustained by Song
I remember when I began losing my grip. It
was a sweltering week in August, eleven years
ago, when I began having trouble with my
Suddenly they weren’t very adept at things like
fastening my bra behind my back and
securing the strap on my bike helmet. I was
fatigued a lot of the time and my moods were
all over the place. I was very irritable, surely a
sign of perimenopause, but was it something
more? When my doctor heard about issues
with fine motor skills he said it sounded like it
could be neurological and gave me a mini neurological exam. I thought I did really well touching finger to nose. It was a bit of a strain but I counted backward from 100 by 7’s a few times while wondering whoever does this anyway. My doctor got me an immediate appointment to see a neurologist who sent me across the street for an MRI. Then we met with a nice neurosurgeon that looked at the pictures of my brain and said the most likely explanations for the white shadow on my brain were multiple sclerosis or cancer. While the doctor was out of the office my husband Phil and I held hands while I said that as much as I loved the two dear residents at my nursing home that had MS, I didn’t want to live their lives. I didn’t want cancer either. The neurosurgeon gave us the option of surgery to take a biopsy to rule out cancer. We took our four-year-old daughter to her grandparents that evening so she would be in good hands. The next morning a friend came to the hospital to see me before surgery. She saw me and Phil walking up to the front entrance. One of my hands held his and I carried my hymnal in the other hand. If my brain couldn’t remember all the words to my favorite songs I would have them on paper. My friend said that’s a good woman facing crisis, her husband in one hand and her hymnal in the other.
Songs are important to me. In worship they give me words to offer to God and through them I hear words from God. My spirit rests when I listen to gentle soothing notes as I fall asleep. Music can be the best part of a ceremony or celebration. It goes beyond words alone. It sinks deep into memory and sometimes rises to the surface in people with severe memory loss.
My hymns were with me in the hospital. When I crashed down from steroid treatment Phil made me a CD of songs that soothed my spirit. I listened lying in bed with tears running into my ears and Sara bringing me her best stuffed animal. I relied on my hymns when we got the MS diagnosis. It is a journey that continues. My hymns hold me up. My husband and daughter give me a hand up every day. I join my congregation in song and when I can’t sing the church sings for me. Music accompanies us from life’s beginning to its end. It grounds us and gives us something to stand on. “My life flows on in endless song above earth’s lamentation. I hear the sweet though far off hymn that hails a new creation”
(Robert Wadsworth Lowry).