Songs that Remain

As we grow older the interplay between body, mind and spirit becomes more apparent. Maybe it’s because we’re nearer the end than the beginning. We grow ever so aware that the final entries in our book of life unfold before us. Along those lines, let me share a very special story about an older couple that I visited for a home energy advisor consultation. The husband and wife of many years lived by a lake and the house was designed to take advantage of the idyllic scenery. There were ample bird feeders and nectar feeders positioned all around the lakeside deck. Humming birds and songbirds of all descriptions filled the scene. The entire back of the house was flanked by sliding glass doors – and even while seated inside you felt connected to God’s good earth.

The elderly man of the house and I sat across from each other at a small dinette table, and I began to conduct a home energy assessment, asking him many questions about his home and the electrical and heating equipment. As so often happens, the conversation took a turn away from building science, and we began to discuss family. His wife was resting in the back bedroom, and he asked, “Do you need to go into her room?”

I could tell that it was important to him not to disturb her. I replied, “I’ll just ask you some questions and that will suffice.”

“Do you see our piano?” He asked.

It was an impressive grand, handsomely fashioned of finely polished, quarter-sawn maple. “Do you play,” I responded.

“No, it’s my wife’s. At one time she was a well-known concert pianist. She doesn’t play now. Adelyn has had Alzheimer’s for about ten years and I’m her primary care-giver. It’s all I can do.”

We talked about Alzheimer’s and I shared that my mother, too, was a gifted pianist who passed from the disease. He asked me, “At the end, did she ever come back?”

“Yes. She hadn’t spoken for over a year, but the day after my Dad died (he also resided at the nursing home) she looked up at his WWII navy photo on the wall and she asked me, ‘Where is Poppy?’ Then she just drifted into silence once again.”

The old man listened intently to my account, and his eyes teared up. Then he said, “My wife has also lost the capacity to speak. But something remarkable happened last week. In the middle of the night, I was awakened from a deep sleep. Adelyn had managed to find her way to the piano, and she was playing Claude Debussy’s Arabesque – one of her favorites. She never missed a note. As she finished I joined her, and she didn’t seem to know what to do next. Like your Mother, she just drifted away.”

I asked him if he had any observations about what happened with his wife and my Mother.

“Perhaps a person’s spirit is immune from the physical limitations of this life. Perhaps, even with Alzheimer’s, the spirit remains intact . . . perfect.”

I thought a lot about what the old man had said, and found once again that the people that I go out to council in matters pertaining to their household, often end up advising me in the most remarkable of ways. I think that the old man was right. Perhaps the spirit of a human being is above the laws of nature. Perhaps during those times that I visited my mother, when she couldn’t speak or acknowledge my presence – she was right there . . . with me in spirit.

Energy tips for November:   The average Minnesota three bedroom household uses 9516 Kwh per year of electricity (around $1,350 per year); the average household uses about $1375 per year for natural gas or propane; or about $2,000 for fuel oil. Ask your power company to send you 12 months of your consumption data and compare your numbers with the state average. If you are higher look for the reason why. Then call Tri-CAP (ask for the energy home advisor) and we’ll send you energy saving tips and some tips on making extra income.   We’ll do our best to help you master your energy bills.

Tri-CAP October blog

Stephen Bjorklund