HAMPTON ROADS, Va. — The torment of dementia is a harsh reality for so many families across the U.S.
Virginia Beach woman Pat Pearse, 91, lives with dementia but still plays the piano at her senior living facility each day. Her music helps her and the others around her.
"She has played the piano since she was a little girl, and that's what made my dad kind of fall in love with her," said Cathryn Pearse Snyders, Pat's daughter.
Pearse fell in love with her husband, George, at 15 years old. The two eventually got married and had four kids.
Snyders said her parents bonded over music, and "Fly Me to the Moon" was their favorite song. Synders' father would constantly request his wife to play songs on the piano.
"It takes her back in her mind to her times with my father when she plays the music of her era," Snyders said.
Tragically, Snyders said her dad was one of the first people in the region to die of COVID-19 when the coronavirus first arrived in the U.S. in 2020.
"We weren't able to see him, and that was the worst part — not being able to say goodbye," Snyders said.
Pearse now keeps her husband's memory alive by playing their favorite tunes on the piano at the Bickford of Virginia Beach assisted living facility.
"You can see everyone's eyes sparkle, and their hands start moving and dancing around," Snyders said. "It makes me happy. I think it makes her happy, and I think it makes my dad happy."
Pearse used to play on a different piano at the facility. But then the owner of that piano passed away suddenly, and the instrument was given away.
Snyders said she began searching for a new set of keys on social media.
"You wouldn't believe the number of offers that I had for pianos," Snyders said.
The community response was overwhelming, and a baby grand piano was recently donated to Bickford of Virginia Beach.
"There is huge power in music and community, and my community came together and donated this beautiful piano just for my mother," Snyders said. "Even though she has dementia, she can still make music and make those memories."
This story was originally published by Margaret Kavanagh on Scripps station WTKR in Norfolk, Virginia.