Old people tend to scare me. It's true. Now, before you start thinking I'm heartless and cruel, let me explain. I grew up singing in rest homes. My mom would drag me to endless care centers to sing to the elderly and debilitated. I remember as a small child being hit with the wall of stench as I entered the sliding glass doors. The strong smell of urine and lasagna still lingers in my nostrils 28 years later. I still cannot eat lasagna if I haven't prepared it myself. I remember walking down the halls to the meeting place and seeing all the old people laying in their beds crying out for help, or yelling at me to get out and leave them alone. It was a very traumatic experience for me. I remember their cold, scratchy, wrinkled hands grabbing my arms and their stale, old person breath too close to my little face. Yes, these images are forever engraved in my brain. So,I think it's understandable why I may be a bit leary of the elderly. When I was older, I still got roped into singing at these places a lot. Once, my then boyfriend (now hubby) and I sang on Christmas morning at a rest home. This old lady sat in the corner eating her non-descript food mumbling and grumbling. When my husband's dad got up and started yodeling, she burst out and said "Well, that's about enough to kill a person!" It was the most amusing Christmas I've ever experienced, at any rate!
I have also had to experience singing at the funerals of many of these very same elderly. I think I've learned to become detached when I attend funerals, partly because I've known so many of the people. I've sung at too many to even count. I had a little organ when I was a little girl, and would pretend to play funeral songs. Yes, that is a little morbid! Strangely, though, I really enjoy singing at funerals. Maybe it's because I don't have to face the person who's died, I don't know. But I really love the spirit that floats in the air at funerals. The strong smell of beautiful flower arrangements and cooking ham and funeral potatoes makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. I even make ham and funeral potatoes at home sometimes when I want comfort food! I love that people cry every time I sing... of course, it's because their emotions are close to the surface, but it's still nice. (I feel very uncomfortable when they compliment my singing, though, so I usually try to duck out quickly to avoid talking to people.) Most of all, I love that I can help bring peace and comfort to those who are grieving, and maybe express in music what they can't find the words to say.
Now, in my current ward (church), I have many elderly acquaintences, and I love them all. Maybe I don't feel so uncomfortable around them because they are upright and self-sufficient. Maybe it's because they aren't pleading for help or yelling at me. But they have all asked that I sing at their funerals when they pass on. I suddenly get uncomfortable, and find myself backing away a bit. I can smell the acrid stench again of lasagna and urine, and suddenly the wrinkles on their hands become more apparent. I, of course, consent to sing for them, but inside I am thinking "Am I consigned to do this for the rest of my life?" Then I'm brought back to reality and see they are such kind people, and it may bring them comfort to know they have at least part of their funeral planned!
In the end, though, I am glad to have the chance to sing at funerals, even if I didn't know the deceased. I still shy away from rest homes and care centers, though. I get a very panicked feeling when I go to those places. I'd rather sing for the dead at funerals. Is that strange? I feel like the reverse of "The Wedding Singer".... they should make a movie about me, "The Funeral Singer". However, I don't think it would be very interesting. A lot of crying, and funeral potatoes, and I probably wouldn't even stick around for the end!
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