Sing a New Song

Sharing Stories

Ariele Huff and Enid Silvera | Apr 23, 2017, 12:43 a.m.
Sunset can be the most lovely time of life. Brad Huff


Over the years, some of my writing students have had strokes. Hearing, sometimes watching, their stories of recovery is heartening. I know that not everyone does as well as these people, but it is wonderful to realize that some can.

The following is a story written by Enid Silvera about her aunt. Maybe this can give hope to those currently working to recover.

I watched as the tears poured down my aunt’s face. As I write I cry. Auntie is my hero. With a Ph.D., she was the talker of the family, keeping us connected as her arms of words enfolded us wherever we were. But then, she suffered a stroke.

A speech therapist, family, and friends painstakingly worked with Auntie to help her rediscover her memory, find her lost words, relearn her reading and writing.

Within seven months, she had progressed from prekindergarten to tenth grade. At times, she misspelled words or forgot what she had just said. Yet she repeated, reread, respelled, revised, and went on.

Once, during a therapy session, Auntie said, “If I could, I would sing a new song.” Asked to write her words, she wrote, “If I could, I would sing a long song.” Puzzled, she kept rereading the sentence. Finally, she erased "long" and beamingly wrote “new.”

Then, asked to name objects in several pictures, Auntie identified the first, but couldn’t name any of the others. Quietly, she reached for a tissue, her face tightening and shoulders hunching. An avalanche of tears flowed. She cried, expressing grief about this task so easily completed the previous week. Feeling like Sisyphus as he rolled a boulder uphill and had to restart as it rolled back downhill, Auntie sang a long song, struggling daily to recover.

Three years later, Auntie is a marvel of faith and perseverance. She’s again having long conversations with her grateful listeners. Today, my aunt cries triumphantly as she “sings a new song.” (“Sing to the Lord a new song”—Psalms 96)

This story is especially touching to me as one of my aunts lost her dexterous Ph.D. mind to Alzheimer’s. The inspiring part of her story is that she lived to 90, her losses slowed and cushioned by constant family help from my cousin, his wife, and their daughters with whom she lived.

The cases of Enid’s aunt and mine demonstrate how much a supportive and loving family can do. They also exemplify the amazing abilities of the body and mind to cope, even to heal after all kinds of illness or trauma.

Beyond that, these accounts show the value of frequent practice that enhances memory, reading comprehension, accurate articulation, and writing skills. Sharing and hearing stories can be a major boost for those laboring with everything from stroke losses to shyness or loneliness. I love seeing the benefits people receive from belonging to writing groups. Senior Centers where I offer groups: Shoreline, Mountlake Terrace, Edmonds, and Greenwood. We’d love to hear your stories! Contact me at ariele@comcast.net.

SHARING STORIES is a weekly column for and about the 50 plus crowd living in the Puget Sound region. Send your stories and photos to ariele@comcast.net. Tell local or personal stories; discuss concerns around aging and other issues; share solutions, good luck, and reasons to celebrate; poems are fine too. Pieces may be edited or excerpted. We reserve the right to select among pieces. Photos are always a plus and a one-sentence bio is requested (where you live, maybe age or career, retired status, etc.).

SHARING STORIES is featured on www.northwestprimetime.com, the website for Northwest Prime Time, a monthly publication for baby boomers, seniors, retirees, and those contemplating retirement. The newspaper can be found in the greater Seattle area and other Puget Sound locations. For more information, call 206-824-8600 or visit www.northwestprimetime.com. To find other SHARING STORIES articles on this website type "sharing stories" in the search function above.

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