April 2014

I just phoned to wish our darling friend Ian a happy birthday – I am five days late, as I have been ill with flu.  We have been friends for over forty years, and know and love each other well.

I speak to his wife Pat for several minutes about the challenges – and occasional delights – she is facing daily, as Ian suffers with advanced dementia.  Her courage and her grace floor me.  This loving couple, married 60 years are separated-  yet still held together - by this awful disease.

Although Ian is the only real singer amongst the four of us, it is our ritual to sing Happy Birthday to each other over the phone on our birthdays. We always joke and say things like 'Don't give up your day job!" - or we lie and say "You must have been practicing, that was wonderful!"  So I am prepared to sing, even with my croaky, flu filled throat, and Pat goes to find him.

She comes back -  a long minute later - with a smile in her voice.

She tells me Ian has been watching Les Miserables on TV, a special of the 25 year anniversary of the show.  And at this moment, Ian believes he is on stage, right there in the midst of it, and right in the closing dramatic scenes.  Ian has sung all his life, in choirs, theater, and plays - and in the distance, I can hear his surprisingly strong and vibrant voice hitting the notes.   Right now, he believes he is in that film, that this is his role and he has to complete the final scenes for his audience.   He is singing an emotional song, and is in a critical part of the production.  She does not wish to disturb him, and of course she must not.  The Show Must Go On.

I have this image of our friend, this tall, handsome, charming, elegant man singing his heart out in his lounge room.   I want to cry, but despite the reality, it makes me smile.  It is so very Ian.

This is what is left, the music.   And his loving wife generating the circumstances in which it can occur.

I know I am in the presence of love.

Footnote added in November 2015.  

Ian died in April this year, one year since the above happened.

Sandra GroomComment