For many years, I have been a volunteer, playing piano for the choir at a predominantly-Jewish assisted living facility. We do a lot of songs from the Great American Songbook, but also throw in an occasional Beatle tune (which generally mystifies the Group).
A digression: in our current program, we are doing 'With a Little Help From My Friends', but, in the interest of gentility, substituted 'eat some pie with a little help from my friends' for 'get high with a little help from my friends'.
Where was I? Oh yes.
This experience has taught me a great deal about Old Folks, and I often get glimpses into the rich, vibrant, and varied lives that these now stooped, often-frail, mobility-or-speech-impaired singers have had.
There are several whose European accents reveal the reality of their having experienced horrors that, thankfully, I have not.
One guy in particular has made reference to the fact that he was in the Pacific, preparing for the invasion of Japan (and his statistically-likely demise), when the atomic bombs brought an end to the War.
But an entirely-new dimension of the power of memory happened last week, when one of the ladies in the group came up to me while I was warming up before the rehearsal. I was playing a Gershwin tune and, with a quivering voice, she said quietly "I still can't believe he died."
She was genuinely on the verge of tears, having been instantly transported back to July 11, 1937.