And Then . . . There Is Light


And it looks like music and laughter.

My mama’s neurologist has slowly been re-introducing her to Aricept since the new year. Initially, her caregivers and I were not at all sure about this. She was easily frightened, tearful and terribly, terribly confused for several weeks. At the same time, we also began to notice slight cognitive improvements here and there. So we hung in there, letting her hole-y brain slowly catch on to the new med.

I am so glad we did.

About two weeks ago, we began to see noticeable signs of improvement and my mom became a much happier and more restful person to be with, generally happy to be alive, delighted to see the sunshine, enjoying the taste of good food.

And she started to sing again. Praises be.

When I arrived to pick her up for lunch today, she was seated in her chair in the corner, with sunlight streaming through the window behind her. On her lap was one of her small menagerie of stuffed animals, this one a teddy bear, and she was speak-singing something to him.

“Hi, Mom! How are you today? Watcha doing?” I sang to her from the doorway.

“Oh, I’m just telling my friend here about the cross, that old rugged cross.”

“Great idea,” said I, “no better thing to talk about.”

And she began to sing in her quavery alto a few lines from that old hymn.

As we drove south through the hazy sunlight, she sang it off and on, until I found one on YouTube and played it for her to sing along with on my iPhone. I sang in my own quavery alto (!!), and she was delighted.

The lines of that old hymn kept reoccurring to her throughout our lunch on the wharf, showing up whenever the space between us was not filled with conversation. It has always pleased and astonished me that so many old song lyrics are still in there, somehow conserved through all the jumbled mess of her synapses. I am so pleased to hear them again. So pleased.

Always when we meet, it is happening-for-the-first-time-all-over-again. Always, she is delighted to take an adventure outside. Always, she loves driving in the car. 


There is seldom any memory of our many previous visits to the same place, especially as we are on our way. “We come out here every few days, Mom,” I tell her with a smile. 

“Are you sure it was me you took?” she asks sincerely.

“Yeah, I’m sure,” I tell her. 

“Oh, well,” she says, “My brain is kinda weird, isn’t it?”

“Yup, Mama, it is. It is.”

Today there was a large cruise ship in port. This always means many, MANY more people in the waterfront area, and more people in all the local restaurants. The wait staff at our favorite place to sit and savor the view was hard-pressed to keep up with today’s onslaught. And while we were looking out the window, talking about how many children I have and how old they are (at least five times in the space of fifteen minutes), this sweet and funny thing happened:

The words to that old hymn came out of my mama’s mouth, though this time they were spoken rather than sung. That, in itself, is a small miracle, as the tune is usually required to spark that space in her diminishing memory bank. 

“So I’ll cling to that old rugged cross,” she said.


“And exchange it some day for a crown.”


“And sometime in between there, it would be really good if I could have a little something to eat!”

I tell you, I guffawed. And so did she. What a delightful moment that was. A brilliant flash of the mom I have known most of my life — quick witted, deadpan delivery, followed by riotous laughter.

That was much more satisfying to me than any single piece of the meal we enjoyed together today.

With the possible exception of a phenomenal scoop of vanilla ice cream which we shared, courtesy of the kitchen, in apology for the extended wait time today.

Now that, my friends, is a very good day. Very good, indeed.

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  1. LW Lindquist says

    Diana, this makes me so happy to read. And it always makes me smile to see your mother’s smile.

  2. That just cracked me up! Oh, growing up with her must have been such fun. So grateful for this day for the both of you.

    • My mom was a very fun person. She was also mercurial, insecure, anxious. We are all such a mix of wonderful and difficult, aren’t we? One of the sweet gifts of my mom’s journey through dementia has been the predominance of loveliness, kindness, warmth and graciousness. All those earnest prayers, reading and deep thinking about self, faith, God and family helped to form the pieces that remain. The special slice of sweetness today was this glimpse of her rapier wit, which has pretty much disappeared.

      • oh, this who thing makes me happy Diana. And I particularly loved the part where her “work” helped for form the pieces that remain. It is an encouragement to continue to grow and do our own work. A therapist one time told me much of the difficulty of growing old is unfinished business. And doing our work now will serve us and those who care for us in the later years.

        • I do believe all that hard spade work, the personal looking hard at ourselves, does carry us through, even if dementia comes.

  3. Pamela Green says

    This thrilled me to pieces !! I love her so and to hear her sense of humor just cracks me up! I miss my Aunt Ruth

    • I miss her, too. So much. I so love the mama that remains – but I miss all the complex pieces that have evaporated. This little breath of reminder was a huge gift. Huge.

  4. Jean Woodruff says

    So great to hear both you and Mama Gold had a very good day! Loved the story – first smiles and then tears for both our Mamas. How I wished we could have used music therapy with Mama T her last five years as all those old hymns were inside her somewhere, having been heard and sung since childhood. Sadly, she couldn’t process the “noise” and just asked to turn it off. Amazing about the Aricept. Just had been thinking about this drug the other day, wondering if it had really made any difference for Mama T. Hugs.

    • I get that mix of tears and smiles. It’s a familiar part of daily life at this stage!! Makes me sad and curious that Mama T would have nothing to do with music. VERY unusual in dementia patients – convinces me more than ever that my two moms had different kinds of this hard disease.

  5. That is SO funny Diane!! What a wonderful memory to hold with you and cherish on the days the sun doesn’t shine quite as bright. God is so very good 🙂

  6. This post made me grin ear to ear! What a sweet blessing for you!

  7. Janet Graff says

    What a wonderful gift to both of you! It’s good in so many ways. I especially love that the music is what you were both able to share.

  8. Oh, Diana…this is such a delightful story. And are there many things more healing than laughter? What a gift. xox

  9. Sheila Dailie says

    Oh, Diane, your words invited me along. Thanks for sharing this delightful time with your mom. And I’m thankful for your perspective and example of ways to honor and love an aging parent.

  10. Oh Diana! This post was literally music to my ears! We’ve been following the journey with your Mom for so long and hearing the pain in your clear writing – and now to share in this beautiful day – and moment with your mother – praise God. Having a SIL in the same condition, I will send this immediately to my BIL and nephews. To see your Mom happier and get that glimpse of her humor and true essence and most of all, faith – a gift for you – and for us too. Thank you!

    • Thank you for following along on this bittersweet journey, Sue. I hope your family finds this small story helpful somehow.

  11. Oh, Diana…what a beautiful, memorable, PRECIOUS moment with your mama. I understand how a child (no matter her age) holds tight to such things. I’m so glad you took time to write this down, to share this glimpse of light and life. I know you know little things have the potential to be the most important. <3

  12. I’m glad you got this moment recorded and thanks for sharing it with us.


  13. So funny! So joyful!

  14. Oh, Diana, I can’t tell you the joy that radiates here. What blessings! So happy for you and your sweet mama.

  15. Thanks for sharing your moment of joy, Diana.

  16. Isn’t there such hope that all the music we’ve listen to over our lives could be the thing that bubbles up and out of us if we have to face the diagnosis that is your mother’s reality? I sat with my mom yesterday afternoon trying to enjoy all that she still is which is quite close to what she was, but the slipping is there. It’s hard not to feel crushed under the weight of the reality of our changing situation as mother and daughter. My mother once sang in church– “specials” is what they called them here in the South. I wonder at the grace and comfort they may give her the days ahead. I’m thankful for this grace God gave you and your beautiful mother. And thankful you shared it. You are blessing!

    • The grief is ongoing, Dea. But I found over time that it lessens, little by little. A fresh wave may strike me on a bad day, but I’m grateful for the small rays of light that make it a little bit easier to hang onto all of my mother now is.

  17. A beautiful day, indeed. And I’m so glad. A beautiful picture too, Diana. Nice to see your smiling face.

  18. A wonderful account and a memory you’ll treasure!

  19. This is so sweet, Diana – so very sweet. My Mom hasn’t been diagnosed with dementia, but she is slowly slipping into confusion and memory loss. When we have moments, like the ones you’ve described here, it is such a blessing. Those precious times when things are the way they used to be. Thank you so much for sharing this journey. You are a wise, dear companion.