Through Song, a Nurse’s Renewed Connection to An Ailing Mother

Illustration by Barbara Hranilovich for AJN.

Millions of Americans are now acting in some capacity as caregivers for an ailing parent. This month’s Reflections column is by a nurse who describes a moment in time as she helps to care for her home-bound and dying mother. Her mother remains, on occasion, as judgmental and offputting as the mother of her childhood.

But in such cases, there’s little to gain by dwelling on old disappointments and hurts—and in this instance, there are good memories as well.

The common language of song.

These good memories are primarily associated with her mother’s love of and talent for singing. “Moon River and Mom” describes this nurse’s experience of tending her mother’s leg wound as the Meals on Wheels man visits, and what happens afterward when the author prompts her mother to sing.

At this point, what at first seems like a rather nice if ambivalent story gradually opens itself into something much larger. As mother and daughter sing together, we see the moment through the author’s clear-eyed reflections on her own emotions, on the minor tragedy of her mother’s personal limitations, and on what it means to have a real mother with all her flaws, “not a fairy godmother.”

But read the entire article, which is just one page and is free, and if you have any tips for caring for an aging parent, or experiences to relate, please leave a comment after this post.


Senior editor/social media strategy, American Journal of Nursing, and editor of AJN Off the Charts.

Comments are moderated before approval, but always welcome.

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