Sacred stories are those stories which exemplify how we are carrying forth the healing ministry. We are proud to share them with you.
(from Covenant affiliate, Notre Dame Long Term Care Center)
"Do you think the performance will be sold out?" asked Joe at the dress rehearsal the day before the concert.
The Notre Dame Chime and Bell Choir was busy preparing for their concert at Emanuel Village in Worcester. The group has performed in the community before and so they knew the drill. For nearly 4 years, they have charmed youngsters at Mercy Centre in Worcester, have performed at Notre Dame du Lac and of course, are well known for their Christmas concerts on their home court – Notre Dame Long Term Care Center.
The chimers, 26 strong, divide into two groups, one, which strikes a desk bell to provide the melody, and the other who wave hand bells to offer the soft sounds that enrich the tune. Chie is the conductor for the desk bell and Jen for the hand bells.
As they rehearse, there is not a smile among them--- they are serious and concentrated; they perform without a flaw. When I suggest they should add a smile, Chie carefully chides me, "They can smile after the song, while they are performing, they must concentrate"– and that they do!
This group defies the image of old people sitting alone reminiscing about days gone by; they are too busy providing good times for others.
"I love the camaraderie of everyone in the group", says Sr. Alice Brennan, Snd, "as well as the bells – it is so much enjoyment." "I love being able to make music and make people happy, it is so personally satisfying," she said.
"We can enjoy this in a way that young people cannot," says Sr. Barbara Winn, Snd.
At the conclusion of the rehearsal Chie instructs them – "take good care of your hands over the next day or two ---we need them, and don't forget, dress nicely for the concert, no blue jeans allowed," she chuckles, and "be sure to go to the bathroom before getting on the bus!" All roar with laughter- their minds miles away from their daily reality of Parkinsons or Arthritis or the other ailments that have brought them to Notre Dame. Chie reassures them the van ride is only ten minutes, there is plenty of room for wheel chairs and she will see them all tomorrow.
We are greeted the next day by the warmth and sunshine of a perfect summer day! Joe catches me in the chapel and says, "People always give flowers at performances, Mary and I would like to buy the flowers for Chie and Jen." I tell him I will take care of getting them, but he has to make the presentations. The day, I can tell is going to be faultless in every way.
When we arrive at Emanuel Village, we are greeted warmly. The enthusiasm builds as performers don nametags and performance hats. The concert is flawless with plentiful smiles added at the excitement of it all! The pleasure of the crowd is felt strongly with thunderous clapping, a lively sing along for Take Me Out to the Ballgame, and the sporadic "encore, encore!"
"I loved the tunes", remarked one concertgoer. "I knew them all and some I had not heard in a long time." Another remarked, "They are fabulous, the sound is incredible". "They showed me just how much life there actually is in a long term care setting." Still another audience member said, "The music sounds like a lullaby – they work so cooperatively."
The magic though was in the connection between the residents of Emanuel Village and the music-makers. As the two groups shared post-concert refreshments, residents of the independent living came to congratulate the chimers. The unmistakable look of satisfaction and pride on each chimer's face confirmed that they were still "making a difference in the world". Repeatedly they were thanked, praised and yes, invited back for a Christmas Concert as many remarked how beautiful the Christmas songs must sound with bells.
As with any performance, there was the behind-the-scenes drama. Residents prepared aggressively for a month, repeatedly remembering the date, picking out their clothes days in advance, one even wore sneakers with musical bars and notes on them. The day before the concert one chimer had a temperature of 105o and the nursing department predicted she would not make it; but yes indeed, she rallied and chimed with glee. Another resident thought the group left with out her and cried thinking she missed the bus, and still another choked in the dining room within minutes of leaving.
The Chime Choir has become a source of great pride at Notre Dame. We are proud that our residents care enough to sacrifice and work hard for the enjoyment of others. We love their music and most of all we stand proud as they show the world that age is a matter of the heart – and their hearts are full of compassion and joy.
Notre Dame Long Term Care Center is a skilled nursing facility in Worcester, Massachusetts. For more information about Notre Dame Long Term Care Center, please click here.