Every week, on Tuesday mornings, I travel to a quaint little place that is the home for some pretty spectacular people. I first stop to pick up a couple of special church ladies to take with me. When we arrive at our destination, we push on a little buzzer, and identify ourselves. A Voice from somewhere inside the brick edifice suddenly asks “Who is it?” and after I identify myself, the door magically opens and they release us to enter into the hallowed halls of the Parkview Retirement Home.
Parkview has seen a radical transition in the past few years, including renovations to their building (it looks like a cozy little hotel now), staff changes, change in ownership (Ko and Helene Tamminga and family) and a slight name change. It’s transformation is the result of answered prayers and the heart and hard work of the Tamminga family. It didn’t have the most stellar reputation when I first began my weekly pilgrimage, but now it has come alive with cleanliness, beauty, warmth and welcome.
I had received a phone call, just a brief few months after becoming the Lead Pastor at Life Quest Community Church, from a woman who’d seen our church sign as she’d waited in the drive-through at the Tim Horton’s across the road from our church. She identified herself and asked me “Does your church accept anyone?”. My simple reply: “Yes”. She proceeded to ask if I’d come and do some music and/or ministry to the people at the Home. Her qualifier was that the people there were “from all backgrounds and faiths, so would I be “ok” with doing something for everyone?”. My simple reply again “Yes”. I suggested perhaps a mix of music would help break down barriers, and perhaps we could just come and see if she was ok with what I’d do?” That was almost 10 years ago.
On a typical Tuesday, we will join with Rose, Dorothy #1 and Dorothy #2, Carl, Franco, Marg #1, Marg #2, Mary, Martha, (so Biblical), Marilyn, Teddie, Colleen, Eileen, Janet, Heidi and Vonda. In their ranks are veterans, choir members, retired professionals, homemakers, business people, woodworkers, and musicians. We will pray together and then we will ask them to suggest a song. We’ve compiled songs from all the requests they’ve had through the years.
We will sing Teddie’s favourite: “O Danny Boy”, or one of Carl’s favourites: “Church in the Wildwood”. Franco, our Italian friend, gets in on the fun with, “That’s Amore!”. We will sing our hearts out on “This Land is Your Land”, “I’ll Fly Away”, “In the Garden”, “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree”, and “White Cliffs of Dover”. We even get in on the “Sister Act” by singing “My God”!
We laugh, pray, tell stories, listen to memories being recalled and occasionally cry. It started me to wondering… what songs are my fellow retirement home friends going to request when we’re living together in our senior years? Have you thought about it?
If I am privileged to live a long life, I can imagine what the requests from my fellow retirees may be: “Hey, could you play “Soon and Very Soon” or “It won’t be Long”, by Andrae Crouch? ( a little intentional ironic commentary) or “Do you know “The Great Adventure” by Steven Curtis Chapman?”. I think someone will still ask for a song that Bill and Gloria Gaither wrote, because, well, let’s face it, they seem to write and live forever!
Perhaps someone will ask for a tune from Rez Band, Randy Stonehill, Larry Norman (“I Wish We’d all been Ready“), U2 (“Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For“…cuz I can’t remember where I put it) Simon and Garfunkel (“Sounds of Silence”), Garth Brooks, Paul McCartney, Amy Grant, Stevie Wonder or … Justin Bieber!!!!???? Perish the thought!
By the time I’m in the throes of a retirement home, there’s a good chance technology will have made the need for “live music” events like “sing-a-longs” at retirement homes, obsolete. (Remember when every church had an organ, a grand piano and hymn books? Or when, if you wanted to hear a song from the radio again, you went to a “Record Store”, bought the album, and played it over and over again on your stereo record player? … -insert 8-track player, cassette player, cd here …). So don’t get too attached to the “spirit of reminiscing”!
But… until my turn comes, I will weekly gather my little church ladies, travel the roads in my city to arrive at Parkview and wait on “the Voice” from their hallowed halls, making the door magically open to let us come in, and share in an hour of toe-tapping, laughing, smiling, clapping and singing, with some really spectacular people.