I had never heard Mom sing Down in the Valley. Ever. Until a couple of years after she was diagnosed with Alzheimer disease. Then she (we) sang it every day, sometimes five or six times a day, until just before she died.
Mom and I must have sung Down in the Valley thousands of times between 2011, when I moved back to Canada to be her care partner, and 2016, when she said goodbye to this world. During that time I learned so much from our musical sessions together.
“Why don’t we sing a song Mom?” I would say when things were getting a bit out of hand, when either she or I was feeling stressed or angry or sad, or when I had run out of other things to do to keep us both occupied.
“Okay,” she would respond.
“What do want to sing Mom?” I always asked before I made any suggestions of my own. It gave her a modicum of control as her world was spinning out of it.
“How about Down in the Valley?” She would almost always reply — It was her go to.
“Okay Mom. You start.”
“Down in the valley, valley so low,” the words came out of her mouth sweet and true. “Hang your head over, hear the wind blow. Roses love sunshine, violets live dew, angels in heaven, know I love you.”
Mom had a beautiful voice. She knew all the words. I fell short on both counts, at least at the beginning. I learned the words eventually–to Down in the Valley and dozens of other tunes– but my voice would never match hers. Ever.