Southern Gospel Times Feature Article

Lessons from the Heart - Mary Anne Oglesby Sutherly


On numerous occasions I have told my families connected with The Veranda that the heart is where we find peace. When their loved ones have brain changes, the heart and soul still marches on. How do I know this? I have witnessed it.

I received a powerful video clip recently from a family walking through dementia. It was such a visual to me of just how much power there can be in a song. A simple hymn caused a voiced silenced by this dreaded disease to awaken and sing about a Savior whom she still knows and still brings a song to her heart. How do I know it’s real? I know it’s purely authentic because the Lord has taken me there, too. When He gives a song, He will never take it back.

There is a piano stool in my bedroom that is my go to place when I need to hear from the Lord. There are a few favorite books on it and a plaque above it that simply reads: faith. I can sit on my bed look out the window and see cows, turkeys, and most of all I enjoy hearing the breeze blowing and the birds singing. This is my space of peace. The Lord visits me there. I hear from Him and He always shows up.
The Shepherd of my soul gives my heart a melody as I sit and listen to His handiwork. It is there on the side of my bed He teaches me the power of a song. I find peace there. My mind goes back to when I stood on that stool to sing as a child. I can close my eyes and see a little girl singing, “When upon life’s billows we are tempest tossed. When you are discouraged thinking all is lost. Count your many blessings, name them one by one. And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.” So many memories flood my soul through the lyrics of that timeless hymn.

When the power of a song is stirring, it always transports me to a very peaceful place. It’s a catalyst for my memory. Why and how? Music is stored in a different part of the brain. How can that be? How can someone with a brain disease that robs them of memory remember all those lyrics? Please know I am not a doctor, I am not an expert on Alzheimer’s. I have no degree in theology, but this one thing I know. His Word says in Philippians 1:6, “For, I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” In other words He abides in the heart. No matter what happens in the brain, He is ever present in the heart. That heart still holds the song.

When I received this video, it filled my heart with joy. I had been working with this family for several months through the difficult journey of dementia. So many things went wrong and the outcome was not a good place. They were facing many difficult questions: What do we do? What is best for our mother? How do I know what Mama would want? Too many people were providing inaccurate information and the family trying their best to do the right thing. Their hearts were broken and their minds were weary.

There were many questions, “What do we do now?” I always answered the family, “What would your mama want?” I never asked what they wanted, but always turned their attention to what they felt their mother would want? What would she share with them on how she wanted to live her final days in this world and would she want to leave it?

We need to talk with our loved ones before they are diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s. We should be pro-active in finding out their wishes and make sure we do our best to fulfill those wishes. This wonderful family followed their mother’s wishes. In their already difficult journey, their mother took a turn for the worse.

In this video clip that I mentioned earlier there were so many poignant moments. My personal favorite was when the family gathered around her bed and sang familiar hymns. My client had been a soul-winner and won many souls to the Lord. Music was her joy. Now as she could remember very little and had not spoken clearly in a few days they were given a gift—the power of a song. Her memory had failed her, but the song lived on. Her spirit recognized whom she needed. Her soul that started a good work was still there. The Lord camped out on her bed and gave this family hope, peace and joy. He was carrying on the good work in her. She had a message for all of her family on that day. The message: “I need thee oh I need thee, every hour I need thee. Oh, bless me now, my Savior, I come to thee.” The Lord came to her. So many times I tell my families that the heart is where we find peace. When their loved ones have brain changes their soul marches on. How do I know this? I have witnessed it. This sweet family witnessed it, too. One day soon she will go to Him. It doesn’t get better than that. And on that day the song will still live on.

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Mary Anne Oglesby Sutherly About Mary Anne Oglesby Sutherly
An Arkansas native, Mary Anne Oglesby lives in Nashville, TN, and is the founder of Veranda Ministries, a program dedicated to the well-being of the senior adult population. In addition to her nearly 20 years in senior care and health care industries, Mary Anne has spent a majority of her life singing Gospel music. She is a private vocal coach and staff member of the Steve Hurst School of Music.

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Reader Comments:

Charlene Edmonson says: This is such an inspiring article. I hioe should rhis be my family they will remember to do the same for me. Oh how thise hymns on me cd's and DVD's comfort me even now in my heart and sole. Being a widow with not much family around God is my comfort.

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