According to Psychology Today, humming can have positive effects on us. Are you sad right now? Feeling a little bit of those post-Christmas blues? Hum your favorite song for about 20 seconds… go ahead… I’ll wait.
Here’s the thing. While studies have shown that humming does make us happier, and some say physically healthier, the reverse is true as well. Happy people hum… and whistle, and sing. Humming also makes us feel safer. Ever hum your way to your car in a dark parking garage? Me, too.
This coming February will make a year that my Aunt Jean has been here in Birmingham at an assisted living facility. Her husband died a couple of years ago, and she was not able to live on her own due to her progressing dementia.
My dad and I went to Virginia last February when the arrangements that had been made for her care were not all they were supposed to be. What I found when we arrived was a shell of the woman I had known growing up. She was weak, frail, confused and disoriented. Down to about 85 pounds, she was so fragile.
It was hard for me to see her in that state. I had always known her to be a strong woman, full of life and faith, and mentally strong. It took me a few days to come to grips with the woman I saw before me. The aunt I had known loved to laugh and make jokes. She loved to talk about Jesus and teach others about Him.
Her life had been one with many challenges and hardships, but she trusted fully in the Lord to take care of her. I looked forward to talking with her again about Him, but I couldn’t seem to get her to do that. All the knowledge of scriptures, and of her relationship with Him, seemed to be locked away in there somewhere. What wasn’t locked away was her humor. She still made jokes, even if they didn’t quite make sense to anyone but her.
And she still winked. Winking has always been her thing, too. As far back as I can remember, my aunt would wink at me, and I would wink back. Even at large family gatherings, she would look at me from across the room, catch my eye, and wink at me. It always made me feel special. Standing at the foot of her hospital bed last year, she looked up at me, smiled at me, and winked. I almost cried.
My dad insisted that we bring Aunt Jean to his house this year for Christmas. I was skeptical. Taking her out of her routine at the assisted living residence always seems to mess with her mind a bit. I wasn’t sure the benefit of bringing her would outweigh the consequences for her. I was wrong. It happens sometimes.
I went early to help her get ready for the day. When I arrived, I wheeled her into the bathroom, and began to work on her hair… while she directed me. Jean was a long time beautician, and apparently still knows a thing or two about styling hair. I used to love to watch her fix hair… and listen to her fix it. You see, Jean was always a hummer. Always. She hummed when she fixed hair, cooked food, shopped, cleaned house… all the time. She never hummed any real song, at least not that I could tell. It was her own tune. I realized as I finished her hair, I had not heard her hum since moving her here.
When we arrived at my parent’s house, she was shocked to “meet” my husband and children. She had forgotten I was married, and even more surprised to see I have four grown kids. It surprises me, too, sometimes!
We fully expected Jean to tire out quickly, and had planned to take her back to the residence right after lunch. But when dad asked her if she was ready to go home, she said, “No. I’m not ready!” She was having a blast and enjoying all the noise and laughter.
When things started winding down, I asked my son, Ryan, to help my dad take Jean home. When he got back, I asked how it went. He said she kept thanking him for taking her home.
When they got her safely back into her room, she said to them, “I wish I wasn’t missin’ you, I wish I was see’n you instead. But it’ll happen again.” Dementia has stolen so much from her mind, but not from her heart.
And then he said this, “And she hummed the whole way back. Like, the whole way.” He said it was not a song he could identify, but it lasted the whole way there.
He had no idea what a gift that was to me.