Stir of Echoes: Haunted Hearts and Healing Melodies

For over a month now, I’ve been trying to assemble a piece in tribute to Mumsie that tied together some music with some of the memories that those tunes invoked.

I’ve finally completed it, in two parts:


Stir of Echoes


Musical Deconstruction of a Life’s Worth of Memories.

Many of you “remember” Mumsie — my mother-in-law who suffered and ultimately died from Alzheimer’s Disease. The tribute I’ve been working on has been my small effort to help you all get to know her even better.

Sometimes within the brain’s old
ghostly house,
I hear, far off, at some forgotten
A music and an eerie faint carouse
And stir of echoes down the
creaking floor.

     —   Archibald Macleish, “Chambers of Imagery”

Since the night Mumsie passed, our Alaskan Malamute Jack has been very nervous whenever he passes Mumsie’s room. Mumsie didn’t pass away in it — she’d been in a nursing home since the end of May of 2007. Before that, she’d lived with us.

Or, more precisely, we all lived with her. I’d moved in with her and Wifey when Wifey and I first married, thinking we’d find a house in the nearby area. Our plans faded when we realized that Mumsie had been successfully hiding her failing memory and cognitive impairment.

It wasn’t long before we realized that we’d be here for the duration.

We were determined to keep Mumsie at home for as long as we could, but in the end — after four and half years of care — we finally had to relinquish her care to a nearby nursing home.  She passed away late one night in December, not long after we’d left for home.

For the entire time he lived with us, Malamute Jack loved to explore Mumsie’s room; since the night she passed, he doesn’t like to enter it alone. He’ll often turn his head quickly and look startled as he walks by it, as if he caught sight of something out of the corner of his eye; other times, he won’t go past the threshhold — his eyes widen in fear and he partially cowers, then he either sits down or turns and goes partway downstairs.

In the past two weeks, he’s become a ~little~ more at ease, but most of the time he won’t go into the main bedroom. He elects to stay within the small anteroom — a sewing room — and wait for us to come back out.

We’ve also heard some strange sounds, similar to what we’d heard when Mumsie was rummaging about upstairs during the time we cared for her. At first, Wifey and I both thought it was each other, until we’d called out and realized we were in adjoining downstairs rooms. With the two dogs.

Jack sometimes hops up from a reclining position to a sitting position and listens intently, his ears trained straight at Mumsie’s door; Ember, too, will react to any sound that we can all hear and mimic Jack’s action, or go hide under Wifey’s desk.

Sometimes, we’d walk past Mumsie’s door and it would pop open.

Once in a while, we’d hear a sound like something being knocked off a desk or table up there.

We don’t feel beset upon — the odd sounds and movements here and there have actually been a bit comforting, giving us a sense that the woman who we’d last seen in this life, motionless and unable to move or react, may have moved onward to recover some degree of her mobility once again.

It’s a good thought, thinking that her existence didn’t end with her physical life.

It certainly provides a measure of comfort to those who have been left behind.

:: ::

I wrote Stir of Echoes to relate some of our experiences and thoughts, and to explain in part why I assembled a playlist of music to help me remember the Mumsie I’d gotten to know

The various tunes on it, in the order they appear, is as follows:

  1. Unwell by Matchbox Twenty
  2. Mother by Pink Floyd
  3. Nobody Home by Pink Floyd
  4. Ice Cream by Sarah McLachlan
  5. Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd
  6. Hold On by Sarah McLachlan
  7. Speak To Me / Breathe by Pink Floyd
  8. Angel by Sarah McLachlan
  9. Here With Me by Dido
  10. Someone to Watch Over Me (written by Gershwin, performed by Sinatra)
  11. Silent Lucidity by Queensryche
  12. I Will Remember You by Sarah McLachlan
  13. Elsewhere by Sarah McLachlan
  14. Is There Anybody Out There? by Pink Floyd
  15. Learning to Fly by Pink Floyd
  16. Fly Me To The Moon by Bobby Darin (and sometimes the Frank Sinatra version)

For an in-depth explanation of what memories each song calls to mind, please check out Musical Deconstruction of a Life’s Worth of Memories, too.

Anyone who has ever lost a loved on has their own way of preserving the memories. This is my way of both preserving and sharing those memories, so that Mumsie can continue to live on in the hearts and minds of those who have known her virtually.



    • GreyHawk on March 12, 2008 at 04:26

    …I forgot to uncheck again, and was on the phone until now.


    I do think folks may like it tho…hoefully, you’ll like the two pieces it points to even more, and will thus get to know Mumsie a tad more.

  1. This is a lovely piece and if I had the magic powers I would add a rec button.

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