Is there a song, a movie, a painting, a book, or some other piece of art that you can say with total confidence that you will never, ever tire of? Whose every note, word, or brushstroke is familiar, and that makes you feel … something? In many of my dementia education programs, I encourage the people that I work with to ponder this question, and consider putting the answer(s) into their advance directives. And when I update mine next month, I’ll be sure to do the same. It’s important to me that the people who may someday need to make decisions for me know not only how I feel about things like feeding tubes and pain control, but that they also know what tastes, smells, images, and music bring me comfort and joy. Because if the day ever comes that I’m not able to put The Sound of Music on for myself, I really want to be sure that whoever is in charge is going to make it happen.
I can say with total confidence that I will never, ever tire of The Sound of Music. (Unless I have an enemy somewhere who gets a hold of this post and decides to use it against me in some horrible form of torture. To my knowledge, I don’t have any enemies of the torturing kind, so I feel pretty secure in this statement for now.) The songs, the scenery, the message of tolerance, and the love story involving the most handsome leading man in any movie ever … it’s everything I need in a movie. And I’m not alone. It’s consistently rated among the top 100 movies of all time (it won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture), is one of the best selling soundtracks ever, and has been selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in both the National Film Registry and the National Recording Registry.
All awards and recognition aside, I know I’m not alone because every holiday season, I gather with a theater full of friends and strangers alike to watch, laugh, cry, and sing along to its joyful sounds together. “Sing-a-long Sound of Music” is a phenomenon that came to the U.S. nearly twenty years ago, and happens every November here in San Diego, at the beautiful Balboa Theatre. It’s become a beloved annual tradition for me and one of my dearest friends, a fun day for playing dress up (oh, you know I’m all in on the costume contest), singing at the top of our lungs, booing and hissing at Nazis, and of course sobbing uncontrollably during the wedding. In these three hours of fun and play, I experience the full range of my emotional scale, and the loneliness that often creeps up for me at the holidays melts away. I found that I was really in need of a good cry when Sing-a-long Sound of Music came along this year, and it did not disappoint. That scene when the Captain first hears the children singing to the Baroness? A blubbery mess. Every time.
So now you know. What are the raindrops on roses or whiskers on kittens in your life? I hope you’ll give it some thought, indulge in it sometime very soon, and share it with someone you love.