A Resident’s Perspective – Music for the Ages

Written by Panorama resident, Mary Jo Shaw. May 2015

Mary Jo - Piano 2Lunch was over.  Normally, the dining room in Assisted Living was cleared, but most residents sat listening.

Tears in my eyes welled up.  Lord, this is such a simple thing, and I enjoy it so much.  You’ve given me the talent and the joy of sharing it.  Each note I play on this piano is for Your honor and glory.

These are true short happenings I often experience:

A man recognized me as I entered the lunch room with my music bag.  He leaned toward his wife’s good ear, “The piano lady’s here today—we’re going to have good music.”  She turned.  I gestured with a nod and hearty wave.

Woman in blue smiled as I unpacked my bag, “I want to take this time before you start, to thank you for coming.  I enjoy everything you play.  I always get here early on Mondays.”

Purple-hat-lady sat tall, beamed, and gestured with both hands from across the room.

I caught the beginning of a remark from the men’s self-assigned, table-for-four by the wall, while I played a difficult section of The Impossible Dream.  In a pleasant tone, one man slowly said “As I get older, that song means….”  I had to focus on my music and block out listening to the rest of his sentence.  The round of applause from that table-for-four spoke louder than the words I had missed.

A former singer and his wife always sit close to the piano.  They showed up about ten minutes late.  Disappointed, she pulled out her chair, “Oh, we missed the first numbers.”  He was already humming along As Time Goes By, alternating soft, whistling tones like a bird.

Mainly, I play full arrangements of old time popular, favorites, musicals, hymns, some jazz and rags that I know they enjoy.  After I finished Chopin’s slow, four-page, Nocturne in E-Flat, a lady at the second table said, “I’m not a classics lover, but I must admit that’s my favorite today.  I enjoy any numbers you play.”

“Mine, too,” her friend emphatically nodded.

Twice a month, I get to play at Gentle Care, the Alzheimer/Dementia unit.  I’m so touched at the response from several delicate residents who don’t always seem receptive, despite their loving care.  Then I see a foot start tapping a rhythm, or a head lean back with a big smile and closed eyes.  Or I hear little Miss B humming clear as a lark from her wheeled chair with her dancing eyes on me and her hand on my electronic piano.  I know she’s someone’s mother, sister and aunt.  She could be my mother—my music makes her happy.

Last month as I headed down the hall after playing, I was called back.  The same Ms. B grabbed my arm with watery, red eyes, “Please don’t go.  We’re not finished yet.”  I bent down, my hand on her shoulder, “I promise, I’ll come back and play again.”  She gave me a beautiful, false-teeth-showing smile in assurance.

The first time I played in the Convalescent and Rehabilitation Center recreation/lunch room, I decided to try playing that long, slow, melodious, Chopin Nocturne in E-Flat.  One man wheeled himself over to the electronic piano, facing me the entire length of the composition.

Other residents were quiet and still in their wheeled chairs around the white-clothed tables—so still, I didn’t know whether they were breathing.  After I finished the last soft measures, the entire room lit up with a huge resounding applause.  They were far from sleeping and certainly were breathing!  The gentleman who had brought his chair closer begged loudly, “Play that one again.”

“If they let me come back, I promise—I’ll play it again.”

Music means so much to them and to me.  I’m blessed here at Panorama, and I never want to take my piano opportunities for granted.

Mary Jo Bio





One thought on “A Resident’s Perspective – Music for the Ages

  1. Hi Mary Jo – You are such a kind and thoughtful lady (talented, too) to share so much of your time with all those unfortunate folks who nevertheless, respond with love to your beautiful music. My daughter, in Georgia, called this story to my attention.I am delighted that she did.

    So proud to count you as a friend..

    Al Walter.

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