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I know every note, too!

Updated: Mar 20

My grandfather came from the very north of Sweden. He was a man with a strong personality who, along with his career and family, devoted his entire life to his love of classical music. When I was growing up, it was considered cool to use hairspray, go to discos and have posters of pop idols on the walls. My sparetime activities - piano lessons and orchestral playing - were rarely among the things that made topic of the day, but when speaking on the phone with my grandfather, I always had someone who listened with eagerness and enthusiasm to everything that was in my world.

We shared the same opinions on which composers wrote the most exciting music, and every now and then I found a cassette tape from him in my mailbox with recorded pieces he wanted me to listen to. Although almost everything can be found on YouTube or Spotify today, these tapes are still among my most valuable treasures.

When his dementia worsened and it became difficult to talk on the phone, the occasions when we had contact became less and less frequent. One summer, however, I decided to make the rather long journey to go visit him at the nursing home where he lived. I felt a little bit anxious because I wasn't sure what condition he was in and whether or not he would recognize me.

When I stepped through the door, everyone there was having coffee, including my grandfather. He sat on his chair, looking down at the table and seemed much older than I remembered him. But then our eyes met and something happened. He couldn't place me, didn't remember my name, but his eyes revealed that he knew I was someone connected to him.

I was there for just under an hour and during our conversation I told him several times who I was. After a while I asked if I could put on some music and then chose a movement from a Russian symphony, one of our favorites. He became silent and closed his eyes. "I've listened to this piece so many times," I said. He smiled. "I know every note, too!"

That visit turned out to be our last. But it was probably one of the most beautiful. I was reminded of how we humans can sometimes connect in ways that bypass words, language and logic. That go straight to the feeling. There is no need to share or explain, you just know.

Maybe this is as close as we can get to truly understanding what another person's experience of something is like. We all have different contents in our life backpack, different experiences, pains and joys, but our feelings are universal and hold an opportunity for us to connect, to touch and be touched, to see and be seen, to understand and be understood. And this understanding takes place in the heart.

In warmth and gratitude,


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