Sunday, October 28, 2007
Singing in the Rain
John and I are touched by all the cards, emails, posts and calls. It is marvelous that he is still alert enough to enjoy all of your expressive thoughts and feelings. Each day I remind him how much he is loved and how wonderful it is he is really able to hear and see everyone's words.
This week John is becoming more and more weak, only in body however. He still is comfortable but does require greater periods of rest. As a result visitors now are primarily family and closest friends. It was a difficult decision for John and I to decide to decrease the number of visitors to our home. His current level of energy simply does not permit as much opportunity for loved ones to visit. So, we hope that this is something that all of you can understand. John, being the extrovert that he is found it a difficult choice to make, but realized he needed to maintain his energy for his family and closest loved ones.
It's been great that he has had opportunity to see several of his friends over recent months or during concerts over the past year. Now, he must rely more and more on written notes and messages through the family and I.
John still listens to music- all day long. And, that includes all kinds- opera, string, classical, jazz, new versions of jazz. Of course we slip on at least two John Arpin CD's each day. I'll never ceased to be amazed how even during his weakest physical states, and often when I think he is sleeping he will make a remark about some musical piece, or correct anyone in the room who mistakenly names a tune or composer. John can always accurately name the composer and title. As you can imagine, when these events occur we don't just hear who the composer was, but learn much more, including anecdotes about the musical piece, or the composer, a comment or two on his/ her character, training, or background, and even on how a piece came about. That' John- always a story-teller. For him no lyric or piece exists on its own...ever! It is always situated within a context.
I must tell you a funny little anecdote about our care for him, although it's a bit personal (he gave permission for me to describe this).
You know when you are ill you often have to be assisted to go to the washroom etc...
A technique often used in nursing training to help when someone feels too anxious to urinate or feels shy is to run tap water.
Well, I suggested something else in John's case, which worked beautifully and resulted in an evening of full entertainment! I suggested that we simply start singing all the songs that we knew with "water themes"! Well that got John really going. For me, I often could only get as far as two or three lines of a song if I started singing the tune. However, John was sure to finish it, and that included every verse! That bathroom break took quite a long time as John kept going with us all...and the personal care workers had a riot. (I'm sure they had never realized that there were so many tunes with water-related words). Songs like....."Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head" (some workers inserted bed); "Singing in the Rain"; "Down by the Old Mill Stream"; "Row Row Row Your Boat"; and "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles" were among the many.
What a laugh! The technique resulted in several outcomes: The bathroom break was successful; John's spirits were further lifted; John's pain was reduced: Any stress I may have had disappeared; The personal assistants became even more jovial; and the "team in the room"- John, personal assistants and I acting as a kind of "group" reached a higher level of cohesion! And, this technique has no side effects!
Music therapy is a field of its own, with research based on several studies demonstrating its healing impacts on a variety of areas, including: management of pain symptoms, distress reductions, the alteration of physiology and in assisting individuals to reach personal goals!
The main point of this story really is one that you all already know - the power of music, in particular, John's music. Further power is achieved through the direct participation in music. So, for John to have to participate in an event where he is the main stage performer and which involves singing, the calling up from memory thousands of lyrics, the teaching of the staff and I to learn and sing along the lyrics, and which encourages the physical use of his lungs and other areas of his body there can be potentially remarkable effects. Of course the impacts include those of a psychological and spiritual nature, but I wouldn't underestimate the power of music at a more biological level.
Now, we have a new nightly ritual-no "good nights" for us until at least 3 tunes have been sung...and we promised "no repeats". I won't win at this- John will of course, as he knows far more tunes than I (But then of course he is 25 years older than me and has had a head start!)
I cherish these moments, and seriously, they really help with all the other stressful stuff. I have to observe disease progression each day-a change in one system or the other, more difficulty breathing or eating, or a change in his pain status. Seeing John's spirit latch on to something like the sing a-longs helps me to cope and reminds me that John will live life fully right until the end...and take a several of us along with him.
He is the most gracious patient I have ever seen...apologizing for any demands to our assistants and thanking them over and over again. They all love him of course. And, I see more and more, just what a precious fellow he is. I'm one lucky woman to have shared his life. That's what keeps me going.