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Sing Unto the Lord an Old Song
by Jerry Rasmussen
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Author requests article critique


I posted the description included in this article under the title Serenading Alzheimer's. Since then, I have expanded it into a chapter for my book.

Sing unto the Lord a new song
Isaiah 42:10 KJV

Deep in our hearts there is a desire to lift our voices in praise to the Lord. We seek new ways to express a love that is as old as the beginning of time. Music has always been at the heart of worship. The Book of Psalms is a collection of songs, hymns, poetry, and prayers. Even venerable old Moses was known to break into song on occasion, praising the Lord.

Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the Lord…
Exodus 15:1 KJV

Just because we are encouraged to sing a new song doesn’t mean that the Lord no longer wants to hear the old ones. For many people, it is the old songs that bind us together.

"I like to sing those gospel songs my family used to sing
In solid four part harmony, we’d make the rafters ring
We didn’t need a hymnal, ‘cause we knew the songs by heart
They formed a bond between us and we swore we’d never part

There was a comfort in those words that still is there today
A wisdom in the songs we sang, to guide us on our way
And friendships formed in harmony will last forever more
Until we’re reunited upon that golden shore"

I Like to Sing Those Gospel Songs by Jerry Rasmussen

Old age can be a cruel mistress. It can rob us of our memories, and separate us from those who love us most. Sometimes an old song can rekindle memories long since forgotten, taking us back to a happier time in our lives. I think of the elderly woman in a nursing home who was paralyzed and strapped in her wheel chair. She was locked in her body and couldn’t move, but her mind was free to travel to a time still remembered.

"And sometimes the memories come back with a song
Just as surely as if she were there

Tortoise Shell Comb by Jerry Rasmussen

All that it took was an old song.

Sing Unto the Lord an Old Song

My wife 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. Old Mister Alzheimer had stolen her away, leaving us with a pale imitation of the quick witted and fun-loving woman we had known and loved for so many years. We 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 loving efforts to talk with her, she didn’t respond, other than to occasionally 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 there remains of

Corrie was trying to reach out to me. After talking to her for a couple of minutes, I squatted down next to her again, resting one hand on hers that was lying limply on the arm of her wheel chair and placing my other hand gently on her shoulder. I leaned forward and looked
deep into her eyes and began to sing. “How much do I owe him?” I sang. There was a dim flicker in her eyes as she sat there istening. “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, and her piano playing days are long over. But I knew that Corrie recognized 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

How Much Do I Owe Him? recorded by The Swanee Quintet

“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 had spoken clearly in response to a question. Neither Joe, their grandson Keith or the nurses had been able to get her to answer a single question. 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. “And sometimes the memories come back with a song, as surely as if she were 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.

Sometimes the old songs are the best.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Marijo Phelps 16 Sep 2008
You captured SO well the struggle of Alzheimers for those who have it and those who love them. My mom, my dad ...remembering became so real through your piece. They are at rest now with their Jesus! Thank you!


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