On Folk Songs and Living Forever


Years back, our daughters spent a few nights in their grandparents’ care while my husband and I were on a trip, and at bedtime the first night back in our home, my oldest surprised me.

“I want to sing you a song.”

Her small voice began rising and falling into a nonsense folk song her grandmother – my mother – had gathered in the days of her childhood. One I had heard but never recalled well enough to sing on my own.

I smiled, impressed at her quick memorization of the lyrics and tune, and together we crafted a quick video to text to my mother, now at her home hundreds of miles away. Grandma was equally impressed; they had sung it only once or twice during the visit.

Months passed and while visiting my own grandmother in the nursing home where she lives, we showed the video to her. Peering at my smartphone screen, her eyes filled with tears and with trembling voice, Grandma said, “My daddy used to sing that to me.”

And we all teared up, and I bit my lip and was so grateful for the sweet moment.

That silly song – so meaningful to this old woman who years ago was promoted to the advanced memory care wing. A woman who often asks the same questions over and over – even the hard ones, like where her husband has gone.

She can no longer live in her house, or even in the same community where it still stands. My grandfather has been gone over ten years; yet each visit requires gentle reminders that he has died.

Her parents are gone. Her siblings have all passed. Her roots are seemingly gone.

But for a moment, she heard her father’s voice in her great-granddaughter’s song. The roots grew deeper and she was home again.

I never met my great-grandfather, but this visit gave me a glimpse of a man who took the time to smile and delight his daughter with a song. And she still safeguards that little treasure in her heart.

We have the same opportunity to sow riches into the lives of those we love, whether they be lyrics of a song, a message written on a page, or thoughts or feelings we dare speak aloud.

Our words have lasting power.

The words we speak and the songs we sing can travel on in our children, grandchildren, and loved ones.

Not only has God blessed us with the gift of together – of relationship; we also have this precious way to hold onto one another, even though we may be separated for many, long years.

My great-grandpa lives on in a song. What words will tell your story?