Music session sparks epiphany

Grief comes in stages, and with Alzheimer’s Disease, it gets drawn out over years. I’ve mostly found acceptance with Mom’s illness, but as I watch her devolve into new depths, I find new levels of mourning.

She’s in the final stages of Alzheimer’s, largely motionless through the day. She speaks just a little, and in whispers. She toggles between hemispheres of lucidity and fog.

Trey "Dr. Trey" Terada, my mom, and me
Trey “Dr. Trey” Terada, my mom, and me

A good friend of mine, Trey Terada, is a professional musician, and has so kindly played for her a couple times. I’m always grateful for his time, and for the loving, friendly disposition he shows her.

It’s fun, and it’s more lively than my regular visits. Usually, I just sit with her on the couch and hold her hand. I try to give her simple updates, which I know will be forgotten in minutes, if understood at all.

Then we look at the TV, or the plants outside, or wave at the caregiver’s daughter’s babies. Little children are a wonderful presence in a care home. 


Trey tailored his performance to her preferences. “She likes hapa-haole songs, Christmas songs, and music of the ‘40’s,” I said.

Music and dance are my mom’s passion, and she was always signed up for things like ukulele lessons with the Y or hula classes at Lanakila Multi-Purpose Senior Center. “The 1940’s are my weak point,” he laughed, but obliged on the rest.

Mom recognized him when he came in. “Of course I remember you,” she exclaimed. “I am so happy I met you!”


Trey sat down and started playing, and she lit up. Her hands moved to the music, she actually sang along – and loudly enough for us to hear! – and she clapped with her version of wild enthusiasm after he finished some tunes. She smiled and kept telling him she loved him.

I watched this little scene and for 45 minutes, cried, sometimes wept, tears of happiness and sadness. I miss who she was: So much more than this child-like person she’s deteriorated into. Then I was happy for her joy today, for the simple beauty of song and connection.

I guess near the end it all distills into this purity: life isn’t made up of big things, or knowable things. It’s the uncomplicated delight of a pretty melody, a smile and a kind word, or the silent intimacy of just holding hands that turns a life story into a love story.

Author(s) on this Post

Diane Ako

Peace of mind By Diane Ako I like to reflect on life. Sometimes it’s philosophically. Sometimes it’s humorously. For all its beauty, life is far too difficult a journey to take alone. You need the support and connection with others to help carry you along the way. Writing brings me that connection– within and without. It clarifies my thoughts and feelings. It helps me reach out to others for advice, wisdom, or feedback. Your thoughts become your actions. Your actions become you. A wise yogi- Patanjali- said, “Speak what is true. Speak what is pleasant.” Let’s speak of things pleasant to one another and seek some peace of mind along the way. ABOUT Diane Ako joined Hawaii: In Real Life in October 2016. She likes being part of a community of local bloggers – people who like writing and sharing, like she does. Ako is an anchor/ reporter at Island News (KITV4 – ABC) in Honolulu. She previously anchored and reported at KHON2 (FOX) and KHNL (NBC), and at stations in California, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania. She freelance writes for NMG Network's magazines. In between news jobs, in 2017, she launched and ran her own p.r. company, Diane Ako PR. From 2010-2014, she headed the public relations department at Halekulani Corporation, which oversees luxury resort Halekulani and boutique hotel Waikiki Parc. She’s been blogging since 2009 – before Hawaii: IRL, she wrote for The Honolulu Star-Advertiser, the state’s largest daily newspaper, where her stories garnered a dozen journalism awards and an Emmy nomination. Ako has a BA in Communications from Menlo College and an MA in Political Science from University of Hawaii at Manoa. She volunteers as a board member of the Honolulu Gay & Lesbian Cultural Foundation, a Shinto shrine maiden at Daijingyu Temple, a citizen-scientist studying shrimp, and a yoga teacher at a senior center.

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2 thoughts on “Music session sparks epiphany

  • December 17, 2016 at 1:17 am

    Such a great post. I have a grandma (my Dad’s mom) with an advanced stage of dementia. I can honestly say she’s about the same as your mom, but my Grandma uses a walker to get around. She was very lucid and alert for so long until she got to that stage of advanced dementia. Now, she just sits around in front of the TV; she hasn’t traveled in at least 7 or 8 years (while I haven’t left the state in 14). Glad to see that your mom reacted so well to Trey’s music, Diane! 😀


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