The Power Of Music Lights Up Those Old Loving Eyes


Last evening we returned back from Europe. I wanted my children to see where I came from and to experience their grandmother, aunts and uncles. After years this was one of the best trips we have made. But also a sad trip.

My mama Olga is in her eighties and it is sad to see her slowly fading away. Especially mentally. Physically, for the last thirty years, she has been coping with a lot of issues and pains, many caused by a botched surgery. Too often her medication plan has resembled a testing ground of a pharmaceutical company. But mentally she was holding on.

Not anymore. Her short-term memory is starting to fail her. In spite of her age, it is hard to see and accept it.

When I try to justify this situation by mom’s age, I cannot. Her grandmother was sharp like a knife until her last days and she lived into her nineties. Similar my grandmother and mom’s mother, only her heart failed her sooner.

On the other hand, we had also a great positive experience. After all my studies and readings about how music impacts the human brain, my mother confirmed it right there in front of my eyes … and ears.

Although now mom has often a hard time to remember what she had for lunch a couple hours earlier, the familiar music moves her immediately.

My children are in their early age, learning various songs helping to master languages. Obviously, they wanted to present their advances to their grandma. And I couldn’t believe my ears, when she joined them singing songs like ‘Frère Jacques’ (Are You Sleeping). She studied French almost seventy years ago and hasn’t used it actively ever since. Similar with notorious songs in Russian – the language, mom was forced to learn decades ago, as well as myself.

I tried to throw on mom various song snippets from my childhood. With each one of them she always got it, her eyes brightened more, and continued with all the lyrics and melodies. Doesn’t matter if the song was in French, Hungarian, German, Russian, Czech, or her native Slovak. And I must emphasize here, that mom doesn’t actively speak any other language besides her native.

One evening we planned to go out dancing with my wife. My old hometown Bratislava is fabulous in hot summer nights. The ancient centre fills up with people eating, drinking and dancing outside on streets.

Our kids made us change that plan. So we had some drinks at home with mom and decided to have some music. I pulled out my old guitar and the iPad, and played songs that would make happy my Latin wife as well as my mom.

As it turned out, we had one of the best music nights in ages. Our old kitchen got filled with waltzes, merengues, folk songs, sambas, swing and jazz traditional songs, old rock anthems, flamenco, czardas, tango and many others. The three of us we were singing, dancing, drinking, munching and chatting till the wee hours. And we were happy.

Music made us all happy in that memorable night. Playing music together allowed us to cross language and cultural barriers, to overcome health issues and to travel in time – mentally and emotionally.

Summer is a great time to travel and meet with good friends and family. Music can help to make these encounters and homecomings special and unforgettable. Especially if everyone actively participates at such musical experiences.

If you still have a chance and opportunity, why don’t you invite your parents, grandparents or older friends to sing, play and dance together. Ask them to teach you their favorite songs from their youth. Or find out what was their favorite music in their young years and learn to play and sing it for them. You will be amazed about sparkles in their eyes. And they will be grateful for your effort and mindfulness. Try it!

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