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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

Friday Afternoons at The Falls

A Memory

I saw this video this morning and remembered the many times I went to visit my mother at The Falls on Friday afternoons. The residents who were ambulatory gathered around the big dining room table. Other residents, a few who could no longer speak or walk on their own, were wheeled down by their individual aides. The aides and the staff would make small talk and encourage the residents to chat or laugh or smile.

On the table were tiny glasses of grape juice. Rabbi Carol, the caring and compassionate Jewish chaplain at The Falls, would stand at the head of the table and wish everyone a good afternoon and begin to lead a short Kabbalat Shabbat service. First Rabbi Carol would light the candles as the residents watched and said "amen." But the magic began when Rabbi Carol began to sing Shalom Aleichem. Every week as she sang the first words, a spark was ignited. Previously impassive faces came to life. Women who no longer spoke heard the words and began to sing as their faces became more animated. The residents smiled, their memories bringing them back to times long past when they heard these words at their own kitchen tables or from the bima or the social hall at their synagogues. Some would clap along and joy was in the air; joy and memories.

I watched this moving video of a former prima ballerina recalling the choreography of Swan Lake this morning and was brought back to those memorable Friday afternoons, sitting next to mom at the table surrounded by the staff who loved her and Rabbi Carol, who saw mom through her last days with grace. I could see this woman's face come alive as her movements came back her from deep within herself just as I merited to see the residents of The Falls come to a place of joy and light through the music of Shalom Aleichem.

As you watch this video, I hope you will be amazed by this former ballerina with her graceful hands. Her muscle memories are buried deep within her but through the power of music, still accessible to her. Whether the words of Shalom Aleichem or the music of Swan Lake, music holds the power to unlock memories lodged deep within all of us, even those whose memories have been swept away by Alzheimers or dementia.

Mom listening to music.

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