My father lived to be ninety-four years old. During those last years, his short-term memory eroded. While he could still do math, remember names and directions, he often couldn’t think of what to say in ordinary conversation. When he did think of something, with no short-term memory, he repeated the question or statement many times.
Something like, “Did I tell you the story about getting that grandfather clock from the old post office in Cold Water, Mississippi?” -- times ten. Other times simple requests such as, “Have you seen my wallet?” came over and over. Sadly, the last few months he asked, “Is Helen really gone?” That would have been a nice one for him to forget, perhaps.
It must’ve been isolating not being able to pull information forward and interact with others. As I’m over fifty now, I already struggle to locate the appropriate word or response, at times. I can only imagine how bad I will be if I make it another forty years!
There are two repetitive vocalizations I really miss about my father, though. One was, when he asked how old he was and found out it was in the ninety-year range, he always said, “The good Lord’s been good to me, letting me live this long.” The other thing he repeated was singing hymns. Well, mostly one hymn in particular, “How Great Thou Art.”
In the car, on the way to the doctor’s office, he’d sort of randomly ask, “Do y’all want to sing ‘How Great Thou Art’ with me?” What can you say to that, but yes? It was so sweet. We sang the song at his request in the car, in his room, and he even sang the hymn to at least one of his doctors.
No one in the family who was around my father those last years will ever hear “How Great Thou Art” and not think of him. Of course, we sang it at Daddy’s funeral. The thing is when I’m old-er, and my mind starts to go, I hope I remember to sing hymns. Or even just one hymn. Like my father.
Do you have a favorite hymn?
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Under the Southern Sun
Janet W. Ferguson