I don’t mean to be a downer, but I’m in the market for some funeral songs…
Over the past week or so, I’ve been dealing with some unfortunate family business. It’s the kind of business that affects every family eventually. My father is on his death bed, after several years of suffering from Lewy body dementia. The disease has been devastating and it’s robbed him of so many things. He used to be a great singer but his voice was ruined after a surgery after which he spent weeks in a coma and was therefore intubated. He used to love to exercise, but the Parkinsonian effects of his disease robbed him of being able to walk much. He used to love people, but the dementia made him less tolerant of others. He lost much of his autonomy and gained hallucinations, irrational thinking, and the need to sleep most of the time.
About ten days ago, he stopped eating and complained of a stomach ache. My mom got worried. She called an ambulance and they went to the closest hospital, where a doctor determined that my dad’s gallbladder was inflamed. A decision was made to remove the organ. I found out about the surgery after it had already happened. When I heard about it, I had a sinking feeling that this could be end up being my father’s undoing. I told my husband, Bill, that we might need to make a quick trip to Virginia, which is where I’m from and where my parents still live. Sure enough, by the weekend we were on our way, since after the operation, my dad had trouble breathing and had to be intubated.
I saw my dad on Sunday, after my mom made it clear that she wasn’t going to go to great lengths to save him from death. Not that I blame her for that… My dad wouldn’t want to be kept alive artificially and, when I saw him, I didn’t think he looked happy or comfortable. My mom confided to me that he had expressed a desire to be done with the disease. Fortunately, my sisters and I are all in agreement with my mom about the right thing to do for my dad.
My dad loves music. In the community where I grew up, my dad was a well known star of many choral groups. He sang a lot of solos and always had some sort of gig going on. I didn’t become a singer until I was 18 and in college. I think I knew I liked music and was naturally good at it, but I didn’t want to compete with my dad or be compared to him. But I know I get a lot of my love for music from both of my parents, my dad especially. My sister said he had seemed to perk up a little when she played some music for him. I told her I had a few songs that I had recorded. She said I should play them for him. I did.
I played this song first.
My dad’s eyebrows raised a little as I played this. My sister said I should play another. For some reason, I ended up playing my version of “Bein’ Green” for my dad. I don’t even know if he knew that song, even though I was a young girl when it was popular. My sister encouraged me to sing along with my recording, but all I could manage to do was hum… and even that was choked up with emotion.
There’s something about this song that makes me emotional.
I came home yesterday. My dad was taken off the ventilator and my mom requested that it not be reconnected. I was told that he wasn’t doing so well without the ventilator, but I haven’t heard any news that he’s gone yet. It’s just a matter of time, though.
My sister asked me to make her a CD with some of my recordings on it, so I’ve been gathering them… and even recorded a couple of new ones today. The ones I did today are a bit funereal. But then, my dad won’t have an actual funeral. My mom has arranged for his brain to be studied at Harvard University, so it may be some time before he’ll be ready for a memorial service. And given that I have to move to Germany by August, I don’t know that I’d be around for it anyway. So I thought I’d post a few songs I would play for my dad if I could plan the music for his service.
Alison Krauss and Union Station singing “Heaven’s Bright Shore”.
“The Far Side Banks of Jordan” performed by The Cox Family with Alison Krauss… I heard this one about twenty minutes after I lost my beloved beagle, MacGregor, and it gave me peace.
And “I Will See You Again” which is so much like my parents’ relationship…
A few weeks ago, I recorded a song that was written and originally performed by Karla Bonoff and later covered by Linda Ronstadt. I knew about it some time ago, but only recently rediscovered it. If I could, I’d play this when remembering my dad…
This is my version of “Goodbye, My Friend”, but you can easily find the original and Linda Ronstadt’s version on YouTube.
Like I said, I’m sorry to be such a downer today. Music is like a salve at times like this, even if funeral songs make me cry.