Life & Living, Music, Poetry

music from a tapestry of shared moments in long-term care

This piece of poetic prose called “Music” is from a collection entitled “A Tapestry of Shared Moments In Long-Term Care” by former Registered Nurse Karen Hirst.


A sea of wheelchairs, walkers, easy chairs, an encasement of human form. Having been herded towards this place, they await their cue to rise and move towards their place at the supper table. Silence reigns within this place of mealtime ritual. Eyes stare out from emotionless faces, a spirit of uniqueness noticeably absent. Instead a sameness of scars from shared diseases they bear within. An aura of premature death hangs heavy.

Music starts. Irish fiddles, sing-a long favorites, dance band melodies of eras past and something changes.

Subtle at first….ears pulled alert, eyes that move between faces searching within the emptiness of this space for the source of a new sound. Very slightly at first, an uncontrollable drawing upwards of lips curling into a smile, a finger tapping out the beat on the arms of a walker, a toe exercising its remembered swirl on the dance floor, a hand and arm finding air beneath them as they take on the job of conducting the orchestra. Within supportive arms, each beat of music finds its expression through feeble legs as partners share their dance moves among the feet of encouraging onlookers.

The silence is broken. One is heard to speak words of praise for the dancers, one speaks directly to their neighbor of how nice it all is, one giggles, one remembers that they used to be a good dancer, played in a band, or sang in a choir. They all clap in united support for the bravery and prowess on the dance floor and unabashedly sing out the verses of remembered tunes.

Something has change within this space. No longer the collective herd but a gathering of individuals united in their love of the beat and tune. No longer spiritless forms but animated motion and activity radiating through the unique expression of their joy. No longer alone but connected through the universal language of music. No longer death but evidence of life finding its way to the surface, spreading out into this space and time.

The life giving force of music. Joy stirred by rhythm. Burdens lightened. Steps lifted higher with every beat. Memories surfacing of loved ones, of times spent together when the language spoken was understood by everyone.

Karen Hirst is a former Registered Nurse, who worked primarily in the field of geriatric nursing. She began her career as a Health Care Aide Instructor and held positions of increasing responsibility over several decades. She spent her final 16 years as a charge nurse at Fairview Manor, Almonte, Ontario. Now retired, Hirst writes on topics that interest her, and is actively involved in her community. This piece is from a collection entitled “A Tapestry of Shared Moments In Long Term Care.”

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