Healing Reflections: "When Only A Song Can Speak" by Angela Huginan

Jan 19, 2021 | Hannah Schlotthauer, Administrative Assistant | @schlohan

"When Only A Song Can Speak"
Story by: Angela Huginan | Mayo Clinic Health System

In the days when the COVID-19 pandemic began gaining ground, Grandma’s mobility dwindled. I returned home, swapping my dorm room for my childhood bedroom, and did what I could to help my mom care for her mother. It was easier in the beginning, when my mom needed me to bring little things—her water bottle, a change of clothes, her planner. But as the weeks melted toward May, she needed more: another set of arms, a stronger back, a fresh mind. Backup.

On days when my mom was with her parents and my dad worked, I was on call between online classes. I would leave my phone face-up on the desk in case I was needed.

“You’re my 9-1-1,” my mom said on the line one day. Her voice lacked its normal cheer.

In the car, I tried not to think about last week, when they’d had to call the paramedics because Grandma couldn’t stand. I tried instead to think about Grandma’s smile, though I wasn’t sure I’d see it when I arrived.

I found them in the back bathroom. My mom was bent down in front of her mother, holding one hand. Grandma sat on the toilet, leaning against the wall and clutching the towel rail. Her arm was shaky. Her gray hair, once neatly combed in waves, was fluffy and shapeless. She straightened as much as she could when she saw me, but even the curve of her mouth held fatigue.

My mom explained that they’d been trying to move Grandma back to her room for over thirty minutes, and she thought it would be best for Grandma if they paused. I was left to keep her company.

“Hi Grandma,” I said, moving toward her. I’d never been around a version of her that was so vulnerable. It felt wrong. But instead of showing signs of shame, Grandma beamed back at me and attempted to shift so she was more upright.

“Can I help?” I stepped closer when she didn’t reply. “Can I help?”

She sighed but didn’t respond. A moment later, she slumped, then looked up at me and attempted another smile. We were back at square one.

“I can sing to you, Grandma, if you’d like. Do you have a song you want?”

She raised her eyebrows in response, and a hint of something like happiness drifted across her face. But what song did she want? I was so distracted by the disposable underwear and the pair of folded pants on the counter that I couldn’t stir up a single song. I didn’t want to look back at those expectant eyes until I had something to offer them.

The thought of Julie Andrews fell into my brain so swiftly that I sent up a silent prayer of gratitude. Julie Andrews, practically perfect governess and face of comfort in the middle of hopelessness. Grandma had always liked her movies. I began singing “Edelweiss,” thankful for the generous bathroom acoustics that rounded out the sound of my wavering voice. Grandma smiled the whole way through, nodding and raising her eyebrows with me as I neared the high notes. For years, she’d been a singer in church choirs, and she knew all about striving toward such notes. We sat there together for two more songs, soaking in that sound and stillness. I have yet to find a church as sacred.


Art by: Ruth Lundblad

Hi, I am Ruth, a wife, mother, daughter, grandma, sister, teacher and artist. I started drawing and painting late in life falling in love with watercolor for it’s transparency and movement - Watercolor seem to paint itself.  Experimenting with Acrylic is so fun with its texture and versatility. In both realistic and abstract art, I search for light and contrast.  The art world is bursting with exciting opportunities, new mediums and great ideas. Art like life is an experiment in learning. I enjoy the whole process.   Its fun to hear the comments and stories others have around my work.   I love introducing people to art and teaching what I know to others as well as producing it myself.

I was formally educated in Physical Education which I taught in Illinois, Texas, and Wisconsin. I enjoyed substitute teaching in the Eau Claire School District. For 18 years I worked at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Eau Claire with youth and their families as Youth and Family Coordinator.

Although I have always been creative, throughout my education years I never had a chance to take classes in art as my electives were always musical.

My “artist” career started with an oil class at “From The Beginning” in 1980s and two Parks and Recreation art classes with Dick Richardson. I was privileged to take a watercolor course from Professor Ned Gannon.  Since then I have attended many art workshops and classes learning from many of our talented local artists.

I have enjoyed exhibiting my work at many local galleries and stores including LE Philips Library, Carson Gallery, pablos Center, The Heyde Center, The Acoustic Cafe, The Local Store and Tangled Up In Hue as well as participating in inside and outdoor shows and doing commission work.


For more information about the Healing Reflections gallery or to get involved with the project, contact Sara Martinek.

To discuss the latest on Post-COVID Syndrome, head over to the Post-COVID Recovery discussion group.

Interested in more newsfeed posts like this? Go to the Post-COVID Recovery blog.

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