Hope Rests in the Memory of Music

A tiny blip of memory – gone – then back. No reason why, but there it is again. The sweetness of a moment shared with my father-in-law all those years ago.

For some reason, Jake and I always finished getting ready for church before the rest of the family. So we had 10-15 minutes to just sit and wait – together.musical notes

Each of us seated in the comfy club chairs in the living room. He stood and walked to the stereo, pulled one of the vinyl records from his vast collection, set it to spinning. A quartet, four part harmony, Gospel music floating around us on a quiet Sunday morning.

We didn’t speak, but sat there communicating in the silence. Each of us listening, being present in the moment, sharing worship as the harmonies filled our souls.

A musical connection. A memory cherished.

With my own father, a more active memory. Dad and I making music together – his guitar, my piano. Sharing the notes, the very faith of our fathers with residents of nursing homes. Our Sunday afternoon ritual.

A routine of service. We never missed a beat. Never cancelled until life interfered, and I was off to college. Then dementia stilled his strumming fingers, his baritone voice.

Both fathers gone now. Both no doubt sharing in the worship songs of heaven. Jake and Henry. Neither of them demonstrative with affection, yet each sharing of their hearts through the power of music.

Do they sing together in the same celestial choir? Or are they individually standing before the throne, lifting their farmers’ arms upward with joy? Do either of them remember me?

Perhaps the memories come now because we are so near to celebrating Father’s Day, and I have no one to send a card, no father figure to phone an “I love you.”

Maybe I am thinking of these fathers because my heart feels emptier without their presence. Perhaps memories will fill the gap, embrace the emptiness with past love.

So I rest in the thoughts, enjoy them for as long as they fill my mind. Treasure the core of what they represent – that being present with the music drew us closer, helped us cope with the stresses of life.

And in that resting lies the hope that somewhere in the vastness of the heavenlies, a chord stirs and finds its way to them then back to me. A remembrance of time shared. A semblance of “I miss you” floating through the air.

And as I play my piano alone, I strike my own chord of gratitude for two men who impacted my life differently yet with the same medium.

And the music continues.

©2018 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

For more memories of Hope, check out Hope Shines – Nuggets of Encouragement for Weary Souls.

Missing Dad

Most of my recent blog posts have centered around Mom and her Alzheimer’s journey, but years before Mom’s diagnosis – we faced a similar struggle with Dad and his dementia. Mom - DadCheck out the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s here: http://bit.ly/AFg8SC

On a cold November day, Dad decided to build a fire in the fireplace but for some reason, the fire just wouldn’t draw. Maybe the wood was wet or maybe it was still green. We don’t know. Dad decided to help it along.

What does every good farmer know about fires? If you want a bigger fire, you add more fuel.

So he threw a little kerosene onto the embers and suddenly was engulfed in flames. He bravely fought the inferno that quickly spread from the fireplace to the carpet to his favorite chair. He beat it out with his bare hands and his arms, saving our home. Then he hurried outside to gulp some fresh air.

Just minutes before, Mom, who worked as a nurse in a doctor’s office, felt the divine nudge to “Hurry home.”

When she drove up the driveway and parked her car, Dad stood outside. She noticed that his shirt was burned. Scraps of fabric hung from his arms. Puffs of smoke rose from his singed hair.

But when she hurried across the yard to help him, she realized those weren’t scraps of fabric hanging down – they were pieces of Dad’s skin.

First, second and third degree burns across his chest, arms and hands. His eyebrows singed and his soul aggrieved as he blamed himself and asked God to forgive him for being so foolish.

An apology that resulted from legalism and spiritual abuse – blaming himself for an accident and for the failure to be perfect.

Four months in the hospital, horrific debreeding procedures, surgeries to graft skin from his legs to his arms, pain medicine – and Dad forgot every bit of it.

The doctors diagnosed him with “Trauma-induced Dementia” but the symptoms were very similar to what we’re seeing in Mom.

An urgency to look for something, to have one of us drive him to the university where he played basketball. We searched for something, but Dad couldn’t find it nor could he name it.

Then he gradually forgot how to speak. He was never a big talker anyway, but when he talked and when he prayed – people always listened. Everyone knew Henry Ediger was a man of great wisdom.

Then Sundowner’s Syndrome where he paced at night – back and forth, back and forth across the carpet. He made funny sounds, similar to something a toddler uses, then finally settled in his grey wingchair – isolated within himself.

Mom and my sister cared for him in the home for ten years – ten long years of gradual regression, of trying to figure out what he needed and what he wanted, of patting his hand at night and kissing him in the mornings.

Those were the years I visited and sang to him. I wrote about that experience in my blog post: https://rjthesman.net/2012/03/30/the-power-of-the-music/

The spark of joy from my music lit up his eyes until Easter of 2004 when there was no response. I knew then that he was headed home. I was losing my dad.

In May of that year, during a spring month when everything should have been coming to life, Dad suddenly stopped breathing.

As quietly and gently as he lived, that is how he died.

We buried his physical shell in the Mennonite cemetery, and I still have one of the lavender wildflowers that covered his casket.

So on this Father’s Day weekend, I will ask God to say hello to my dad and remind him how much I love him – how much I still miss him.

And I will be grateful every single day of my life for his godly example – even when the flames engulfed him.

©2013 RJ Thesman – Author of “The Unraveling of Reverend G”   http://amzn.to/176xIdt