healing

Musical Deconstruction of a Life's Worth of Memories

Music and memory are both powerful influences on life; it's not surprising, therefore, that we can often find music and memories mixed throughout human history. In Part I: Stir of Echoes, I reflected upon the passing of my mother-in-law in light of several strange happenings around our house that suggest to us her continued presence and apparent intention to watch over us. I ended by describing how I'd assembled a playlist of music that helped me keep my memories of Mumsie alive by evoking that special stir of echoes that manifest within my heart whenever I hear certain music and melodies. This piece delves into the elements of the playlist and the memories each one embodies. By sharing it, I hope to further share the unique experience of knowing Mumsie as I had come to know her during the twilight of her years.

Stir of Echoes

Sometimes within the brain's old
ghostly house,
I hear, far off, at some forgotten
door,
A music and an eerie faint carouse
And stir of echoes down the
creaking floor.

      --   Archibald Macleish, "Chambers of Imagery"1

Hawkwife's mother -- my mother-in-law -- passed away December 19th, 2007, at the nursing home where she had lived for less than a year. I affectionately referred to her as "Mumsie" and had served as her primary caretaker from the day Wifey and I married until the time we moved her into the nursing home. Truth to tell, I continued the role even afterward, working to ensure due diligence in her care and facilitate understanding and communications between Mumsie, the staff and us.

The house felt quiet, somewhat empty, when we moved Mumsie to the nursing home. I felt somewhat empty, somewhat relieved, and a little as though I had betrayed not just a friend but a person who had grown to depend upon me to be there to help her.

There are so many ways to second guess the decisions one makes in life, regardless of whether it pertains to something major or minor. With major decisions -- those which impact not just your life but the lives of others -- the tendency to second-guess can explode exponentially into a multitude of "what-ifs" and "if onlys" until the mind and spirit strain under the weight.

We were spared some of this.

Some of it.

We missed Mumsie, but were no longer able to care for her at home without assistance, and we didn't qualify for the assistance we needed.2 It was the best thing we could do to ensure the high level of care we'd established for her, albeit at a cost of a level of interaction that I still regret today.

In the aftermath of her passing, as days stretched into weeks and the weeks into months, we've come to believe that she gently lingers with us in both memories unbidden and incidents of awkward recognition -- her life spirit, echoing through the halls of body, mind and abode. It is a reassuring feeling, comforting on several levels even while a touch spooky and otherworldly.