Music is a universal language. When words fail, music speaks, as I have learned repeatedly.
Once vibrant and deliberate in her demeanor and actions, the frail woman lay still on the bed that seemed to swallow her up. Her eyes were closed. I paused at the doorway and took in the scene.
The room was decorated with smiling photos and well-wishers’ cards. A crucifix hung over her bed frame. Sunlight streamed through her window, providing a warm, cozy cheerfulness. Had she been a cat, the woman would have curled up in the bed and basked in the heat.
Under the window stood a small end table, on which a vase of flowers heralded the notebook visitors used to communicate with the family. Her daughter was usually in attendance, but no family member was in town on this occasion.
I skimmed the notebook, wondering if any other visitors had come today. I was the only one. Or was I?
She stirred in the bed and glanced my way with a puzzled expression. “Hola,” I said, “I am one of Rosalinda’s girlfriends.”
At the mention of her daughter’s name, the woman’s eyes brightened. She smiled and tried to rise from the pillow.
“Oh, please don’t get up; I came to see you,” I said, unsure if she understood my words.
She gestured for me to come closer and sit. I crouched down on the mattress, low to the floor due to her frequent falls. She took my hand and talked, and talked, and talked in Spanish. I didn’t know any more Spanish than Hola.
Her daughter had informed me that among the devastating effects of dementia had been language. This lovely woman could only communicate in her native tongue. I might not understand what she says, my friend warned.
Oh, but not to worry, I understood everything I needed to know that day.
As this beautiful woman spoke, she grew more excited by the minute. I nodded and smiled. She nodded and smiled. Again and again.
In time, her words became faint and eventually lapsed into silence. It was time for me to leave.
I asked if I could pray with her before I left. She smiled, nodded, pressed the palms of her hands together, and closed her eyes. I began reciting The Lord’s Prayer.
Without missing a beat, she began praying with me in English. Together, we approached the throne of heaven with our petitions.
I may not have understood her Spanish, but we shared our faith through prayer.
I knew this family wrestled with the decisions many of us face as we care for our loved ones, but they continued to place their mother in God’s loving care until her last breath. May we always remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 19:19 (NLT), “Honor your father and mother. Love your neighbor as yourself.”
If you have a friend who is caring for elderly parents, how might you provide some relief for them? I know receiving cards and letters to brighten a convalescent’s room is always appreciated. Or a meal prepared for the caregiver’s family will never be turned away.
How can you help someone honor and care for their father and mother? How can you demonstrate love to your neighbor?