Posted by Marilyn Okonow
I am privileged to lead the Tremble Clefs, the JF&CS Parkinson’s Family Support chorus. I know that it is such a cliché when people say, "I get more than I give," but it is so true. The positivity that members of the chorus bring with them is amazing. Each person has his own limitations, but they put those aside and focus on what I ask them to do with their voices. This is a chorus of people who love to sing and happen to have Parkinson's. So while every warm-up, every song, every tempo is chosen with their challenges in mind, in the end it is about making music together and having fun. And I leave the chorus afterward feeling energized and inspired by the courage it takes everyone dealing with Parkinson's, patients and care partners alike, to literally put one foot in front of the other and go about their day.
We meet at the United Parish Church in Auburndale. Last year, we arranged to perform on a Sunday morning after worship services, when the congregants have dessert and coffee in the multipurpose room where we practice. While the process of meeting and singing weekly is what the Tremble Clefs is all about, having a concert to prepare for gives the group an extra impetus and goal. The day before the concert, I got an email from Elizabeth* that her husband Wayne* was in the hospital with a minor infection and that they would be unable to sing with us on Sunday. Wayne has great difficulty even talking and being understood, let alone singing, but he is always engaged and I am always amazed to see him moving his mouth every week. His devoted wife, Elizabeth, happens to love singing, and they often hold hands and laugh together at chorus. I wrote back to Elizabeth that we would certainly miss them on Sunday, but please tell Wayne that I hoped he felt better.
So that Sunday morning all our singers showed up in their white shirts and black skirts or pants, ready to share what we had been working on. Many had spouses, children, and grandchildren with them. About five minutes before we were to begin, in walks Elizabeth pushing Wayne in a wheelchair! Even more astonishing was the fact that he was wearing a white shirt and black pants - ready to perform. Somehow she managed to get him to the concert and had the wherewithal to bring his concert clothes. Elizabeth firmly believed that singing in the concert was as important to her husband’s health as the care at the hospital. Wayne and Elizabeth are only two of the remarkable and inspiring people that I have come to know and love in the chorus.
*Names changed to protect privacy.
Marilyn Okonow is the volunteer conductor of Tremble Clefs choral group, a program of JF&CS Parkinson’s Family Support. Marilyn engages the singers with great sincerity and heartfelt warmth and acceptance. She creates a sense of community and makes each participant feel welcome and appreciated. Marilyn gets to know each individual, highlighting his or her strengths and quirks with a kind sense of humor.