I wasn’t sure what was happening. We were at a new nursing home yesterday and nearing the end of a “When Swing Was King” program for a crowd of 30 residents or so.
But off to my right, a woman was somewhat
agitated and trying to get up out of her wheelchair. She was very weak
and unstable and, from the rapid movement of the staff members to the
lady’s side, it was clear she wasn’t supposed to get up by herself. The
lady was from a special unit in the facility for Alzheimer’s and other
serious dementia and it became clear that the staff was unsuccessfully
trying to persuade her to resume her seat.
The reason she wouldn't sit down? She wanted to dance!
And, as the staff reluctantly (and nervously) allowed her, dance she did! With an aide holding her on one side, the activities director holding her on the other side, and other staff members arranged in front and behind, Charlotte danced to the boisterous sounds of Benny Goodman’s “Don’t Be That Way” and then Dean Martin’s “Cha Cha Cha d’Amor.”
It was a marvelous moment in what we've already seen to be a most marvelous ministry – seeing how the power of music reaches even into the mysterious depths of dementia and recalls memories, self-awareness, and joy. Charlotte was loving it, her broad smile and swaying movements clearly showing her delight to everyone in the place.
This was just one of the indications that it was right to add this particular facility to our monthly schedule. (This one, Bethany Lutheran Home in Council Bluffs, now makes it thirteen places every month!) For one thing, the contraption we designed to block out the sunlight from a stained glass window high on the south wall worked great. We had made it with just a few dollars worth of PVC pipe, fittings, and the same kind of black plastic sheet we use in a few of our other venues. The facility's chaplain was especially impressed with the rig. "Now why didn't we ever think of something like that? That is really helpful."
Other proofs were the exuberant responses of the staff (and we were very impressed with them too), the many complements and thank-yous from the residents, and very pleasanr visits afterwards with such folks as Lloyd, Robert and Arlene.
It was yet another great time with "When Swing Was King." But those delightful dance moves of Charlotte will be something we treasure for a long time.