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A Joyful Noise

By Ellen Carpenter

A Joyful Noise

My dad has dementia. His variety was initially diagnosed as having “primary progressive aphasia,” which means he can’t express the right words. For someone like my dad, who thrives on talking to people, making new friends, and for whom writing was an essential daily activity: be it emails, postcards, or policy analyses, his gradual decline the past three years has been hard.

Being physically distant from my parents, who live just two hours away, has been even harder these past two months. When we take a weekend day to drop off a take-away lunch or groceries, my dad doesn’t understand why we can’t hug him. (Bill is required to go into the office each day, so we’re very careful about respecting physical distances.) Dad doesn’t understand what the face mask is for when he and mom walk in the neighborhood. We’ve started using FaceTime to do video calls, but dad doesn’t quite understand that the tinny voices on mom’s iPhone video are us.  

My dad’s love of music, any kind of music, however, has grown tremendously throughout the past three years. Bill burned a collection of CD “mix tapes” for my dad at Christmas: an eclectic selection of classic rock tunes that dad can listen to during the day. He can still sing along to Bob Seger’s “Hollywood Nights” and has a particular affection for tapping out the percussion in War’s “Low Rider.” And their church in Harrisonburg, VA (Asbury UMC) broadcasts services and musical offerings online. My dad may not be able to fully understand these new video interactions, but music and how he experiences that remains a constant for him. Even though my family has not been blessed with singing voices, we can all continue to have our hearts uplifted by music. It’s this knowledge that dad finds joy in music that brings me some comfort in turn, during these changing and distanced days.

-Ellen Carpenter

Psalm 100: Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing.

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