Updated: May 17
About 10 years go during a visit with my mother in South Dakota, I suggested we go see a former neighbor who was in a rest home suffering from Alzheimer's. Mom hadn’t been there for at least a year or more saying it was hard for her to see one of her best friends in that condition. Ruth hadn’t spoken for months.
I insisted we go and found Mom’s friend sitting in a wheel chair in the recreation room staring blankly ahead. Her adult daughter, who I knew as a child, came often and happened to be there as well.
I had brought my guitar with me and after some small talk, I got it out and pulled up a chair directly across from Ruth. Still very stoic, her eyes locked with mine and I began to play the beautiful hymn that I was certain she had known in her past called, “In the Garden”.
When I finished, she said in a crystal clear voice, “Well, you’re easy to get along with." Ruth’s daughter was overcome with emotion as she heard her mother speak for the first time in a very long time, even though what she said didn't make a lot of sense.
I asked the staff if offering music to the residents was part of the activities at the rest home and she said it was not. As far as I know, Ruth never spoke again until her death a year or so later.