“Music, at its essence, is what gives us memories. And the longer a song has existed in our lives, the more memories we have of it.” Stevie Wonder
Growing up, when my family had reunions or get-togethers we always had a musical component to them. We loved gathering around the family room and joining together in song. We would also share our talents by performing for people in church. Whether we were cooking, cleaning, or just hanging out, music was always involved. Even though so many of us had passions in music, I believe that these family traditions would have never started if it weren’t for my grandfather and grandmother whom we called Papalo and Nanny Kay.
Papalo was a music director for many years in church while Nanny Kay played the piano to help lead the congregation. They were a beautiful team devoted to serving others with their whole hearts. Most of the ways they served usually involved either food or music. Papalo and Nanny Kay knew many songs and rarely needed to follow along with sheet music. They both had tremendous memories and were much like walking musical libraries.
Eventually, things began to change when my grandfather was diagnosed with cancer and my grandmother discovered she had Alzheimer’s disease. The whole family was sure our musical traditions would soon come to an end and be forgotten by both Papalo and Nanny Kay. However, to our surprise, music was more apparent in our family than it ever had been before. You could never visit Papalo or Nanny Kay’s house without singing many songs in harmony with them. No matter what kind of voice you had, they believed everyone had a song to sing. I have so many fond memories lying in bed next to them singing the night away.
After my Papalo passed away, we weren’t too sure if Nanny Kay would hold on to her memories of him or the wondrous music they created together. As my grandmother’s memory began to fade through the years, her spirit and love for music always remained strong. I am amazed at how much she remembered due to how severe her condition was. She rarely remembered our names and who we were, but if you sang her a song she could recall every note and every word. Occasionally, Nanny Kay would remember certain memories associated with songs we would sing to her and would begin to tell stories. Music was our medicine in those difficult times.
Nanny Kay always had a way of bringing the family together in ways no one ever expected. The room was always filled with joy and laughter with her around. If there was ever a quiet moment, she filled it with song. Things will never be the same without her, but we will always have the memories we’ve shared together. Her song will forever be near and dear to our hearts.