Ruth and I went to visit our friend Joe’s wife Corrie after church today. Corrie has Alzheimer’s Disease. It had been quite awhile since our last visit, and she’d lost a lot of ground. Most days when Joe goes to visit her (and he’s never missed a day,) she doesn’t open her eyes and rarely utters a comprehensible sentence. More often than not she doesn’t recognize visitors.
When we arrived at the nursing home, they were just bringing Corrie down the corridor. She was slouched back in her wheelchair, seemingly oblivious to everything. We had brought a plant and a card for her, and Joe tried to make her aware that we were there. She had her eyes open and was wearing her glasses, but it was difficult to know what images were registering in her mind. Despite all of Joe’s efforts, she didn’t respond, other than to occasional utter a low cry, as if she was in pain. Joe kept asking her if she had any pain, but the questions hung there in the warm corridor air, fading away with no answer. Joe asked me to read the card to Corrie so I squatted down in front of her wheelchair and read it to her, telling her how much we love her and that we are keeping her in prayer. With that, she attempted to string together a few words into a sentence, and for the first time, I felt that I was breaking through to her. Whatever remains of Corrie was trying to reach out to me. After talking to her for a couple of minutes, squatting there beside her, I looked her right in the eye and started singing. “How much do I owe him?” I sang. I could see that I had her full attention, so I said to her, “Remember that song, Corrie? That was your favorite song that the Messengers sang. You used to play it on the piano.” Corrie can no longer feed herself, so her piano playing days are long over. Joe, or their ten year old grandson Keith, who was there with us today, patiently feed her a spoonful at a time. But Corrie heard the song, and I sang the chorus for her.
How much do I owe him?
How much do I owe him?
How much do I owe him”
He died just for me, just for me
“The next time that we come, Corrie, I’ll bring my guitar and we’ll do the song together,” I told her. “I will if the good Lord is willing,” she answered. It was the first time in a long time that she has spoken clearly in response to a question. Neither Joe, Keith or the nurses could get her to answer a single question today. But she understood what I was saying. She used to play that song over and over again on her piano when she was still home with Joe. It’s still in there.
As we were leaving, Joe was beaming at us. “I think she knew who you were,” he said. “She really lit up when you started singing to her.” And suddenly, it was a beautiful day.