Saturday, June 1, 2019

The curse of Dementia


Last week my brother Finian and I were bringing Mam to see the doctor. She was  very worried about going there and she said something that broke my heart.
"I was trying to pray last night but I can't remember how to."

Mam still knows who we all are (in fact sometimes she remembers too much !) But out of the blue she will say something that will stop us in our tracks. There are ever widening gaps in her memory. The fact that she couldn't remember her prayers is a biggie. Irish Catholics of Mam's (and my) generation learned our prayers before we even learned nursery rhymes.If there's anything that is ingrained in our brains its a litany of prayers. But now they are locked away in Mam's memory and she can't get them out.

This morning I went up to her nursing home after breakfast to get her to come to mass with me. Now, I have had my issues with the Catholic Church for the past few years and am not a mass goer. But I figured if we tried to pray together then some of them might come back to her. Also Dad built the church in the nursing home and if ever I want to talk to him I go there not to his grave,
Mass started and Mam remained silent. However during several parts of the mass Mam joined in with the correct responses. Happy Days.

When mass was over the priest turned on the CD player and suddenly the hymn Queen of the May came blasting out. Mam was always a lovely singer and she began to sing along with gusto. There were four long verses and she knew every word of them. But what was every bit as amazing was that....
I KNEW EVERY WORD TOO!
I found myself singing along even though I didn't remember ever singing it before. But singing that hymn with my mam (even though I haven't a note in my head) is hopefully a precious memory I will have forever.
When mass was over we got talking to my old primary school teacher. I was telling her what had happened. She looked at me and said
"Noeleen! Every May in school ye all knelt down in the corridor, said the rosary and sang that hymn. That's how you know it."
And that's about forty five years ago!
Isn't music magical. The words were locked away in both of our memories and all it took was a few chords to bring them all flooding back.

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