Excerpt from Chapter 5: Rainbow Smiles
Most smiles begin with a warm energy that snakes like a python through your body and escapes through crescent-shaped doors of your lips. Then there are rainbow smiles that grab you in a supersized hug, hold you so tightly you can feel ribs of joy press against your essence. They are spellbinding, memorable, healing, and enriching, all puckered together in a soul-smacking kiss. Hospice volunteering has been a catalyst for many rainbow smiles.
Sometimes patients needed me to help them solve problems. One day, Inez and I had an especially great visit. I had been thinking about how to find a key for a music box her niece had given her for Christmas. She loved having the music box on display to have a good excuse to talk about it. Unfortunately, she had never heard it play. The key was missing when she received it. Her niece had tried to find a key, but with no success.
A lovely piece of handiwork, the music box had a wooden base supporting a clear glass container. Inside the container lay a beautiful butterfly resting on a small floral bouquet. Underneath the box was a hidden switch that made the seasonal display enchant with spurts of brightness. Inez, my ninety-two year old patient, said she often sat and watched the softly glowing scene blink on and off. One night, she and I quietly watched it together. That's when I realized how much this silent little music maker meant to her. But neither of us knew what song it was supposed to play. We imagined the Christmas song we thought it should play and hoped one day we could solve the mystery.
Getting the music box to play became my project, and I knew I would need some help. The next day, I explained the problem to Burton, a teacher at my school. He decided to become a part of the solution by checking out some stores that might have the missing key. It sounded like the search for Cinderella's shoe. After looking for two weeks, Burton finally found a matching key at a large toy store. The sales lady was so touched by his story about Inez's "musicless" box that she gave him the key free of charge. We couldn't believe our good fortune which became Inez's thrill maker.
In the second week of May with spring showing off nature's fashion makeover from winter, Inez heard her cherished music box play for the very first time. She picked it up gently and carefully placed it near her hearing aid. The song we had wondered about for months, the song that had driven us to discover its name finally played the sweetest version of "Joy to the World." Just hearing the music box fulfill its purpose felt like a miracle. Inez grinned widely, thanked me, and told me to thank the nice man who found the missing key that made her music box come alive.
The mystery had been solved, and Inez was ecstatic. I thought nothing else that day could outdo the pleasure of hearing the music box play, but I was wrong. After Inez set her mechanical miracle on the window sill so we could admire it playing and revolving, something wonderful occurred that surprised us both: The brightly colored butterfly started moving, slowing creeping up to the opening red flower. Inez and I gave each other eerie "Twilight Zone" looks. Then we shared rainbow smiles about the joy in our own little world.
Frances Shani Parker
You can hear Frances Shani Parker read the dementia, Alzheimer's disease poem below on this YouTube video with over 23,500 views.
Poem: Pieces of Our Minds
On the border, on the brink,
we shiver like quivering tears
swollen to fullness with distress,
reluctant to spill an excess.
Strapped in delusions
wondrous and weird, we ride
roller coasters of reality
through joy and fear.
On the brim, on the rim,
like balls circling in frustration,
we scramble for thoughts
lost in nets of uncertainty.
Invaded by memories,
peeping, creeping, weeping,
we laugh and cry to the
rhythm of nostalgia.
On the fringe, on the edge,
changing, adjusting, impacting,
we crave compassion in our
search for society’s sanctuary.
Frances Shani Parker
1) Accept death as part of life.
2) Listen to the universe.
3) Expect rainbow smiles.
4) Live a healthy lifestyle.
5) Be informed and proactive.
6) Do your best.
7) Give service to others.
8) Be grateful for blessings.
9) Put death wishes in writing.
10) Have a dignified death journey.
Frances Shani Parker
Visit the website below to read my