My wife’s mum is having a really rough go of it, health-wise. She’s not her old self anymore, sometimes being distant or sometimes being entirely absent. For this to make sense, it helps to know a few things about her. Despite living in Toronto for over forty years, she’s remained proudly and fiercely French Canadian. She embraces her culture. She may know who Tom Hanks is but she may not. Certainly, she would never have heard of George Clooney or U2 or Jerry Seinfeld. She loves music but her music is classical or jazz or the French troubadours of her younger days.
Yesterday, while my wife and I were by her side in hospital, we put on the only French channel available to us. It was a choir competition show for high school students. One of the songs they were doing was Blowin’ in the Wind. As she lay in bed, seemingly half asleep, she started singing along with the song, word for word. Very gently and serenely. My wife and I were shocked. My wife said to her, in French, ”mum, I didn’t know you knew Bob Dylan? He’s Joe’s favourite”. Her mum replied that she didn’t know it was Bob Dylan. But a fifty-four year old song came back to her like it was yesterday. In all the hundreds and hundreds of hours I’ve spent in hospital with five different family members over the last few years, I’ve seen many heart-breaking and often tragic things. It has depleted me. But I’ve also seen some things that I can best describe as almost indescribably beautiful. This was one of those things. Music.