HARRODSBURG — At James B. Haggin Memorial Hospital’s extended care floor, many residents have come to a point in their lives where they’ve developed an especially close relationship with God. This is best evidenced whenever there’s a religious service, or any form of entertainment, pertaining to the Almighty. And when events of this nature do take place, the extended care unit’s recreational room generally will packed.
This is never more true than every Friday from 2 to 3 p.m. when brothers Bob and Darryl, along with their mother, Nancy Royalty, come to visit and perform a wide selection of old-time gospel songs. With Mom on the piano and the brothers singing, many residents sing along, thanks to a selection of hymn books the musicians pass out.
“To be honest, many of them know the lyrics even without the books,” said Nancy.
Those who might not quite have the energy to sing like they used to are singing to themselves as is witnessed by the smiles on their faces. Still others tap their hands to the sweet gospel rhythms that undoubtedly bring back memories of church services from years ago.
On a recent visit, between songs, Bob and Darryl asked the group if anyone had a particular request. Often two or three residents will shout out a personal favorite. The Royaltys always comply and thank the resident for making such a wonderful choice.
One fan is resident Louise Wood, who everyone calls Ms. Louise. On this day, she wore one of her best blue outfits, which matched perfectly with her bright smile.
“This music and these wonderful people just ‘glad me right up,’” said Ms. Louise, adding the gospel session beats out Thursday Bingo. “And you know how much I love Bingo, so that’s real good!”
Ms. Louise always can be counted on for a friendly conversation and welcoming smile. But she admits that sometimes she can feel a little down. “It doesn’t happen all that much, but when I do feel a little down, these singers can ‘bright me up like nothing else.’” Just after the concert, Ms. Louise spoke about how much fun she’s going to have when they come again next week.
Asked if she’ll be sitting in the front row next Friday, Ms. Louise answers the question in her own style that’s made her a favorite resident. “Why, of course I am, why would you even ask me such a thing!”
She laughs and her fellow residents join in the humor, each of whom agrees, “The Royaltys” are nothing less than angels from heaven,” as one woman described them.
The Royaltys believe one reason their music resonates with this special group of fans is because of its inspirational powers. “These old hymns all highlight the words, and more importantly, the meaning in the words,” said Darryl, who believes some of the newer religious songs have a tendency to put too much emphasis on the melody and not the words.
“You see, the words have both the doctrine and scripture so in the process of song, we’re sharing the gospel,” said Bob, who said he and his brother began practicing hymns early in life while riding around in the back of the family’s 1952 Ford pickup truck. “We called the truck ‘black beauty’ and it made for some good rehearsing. Darryl added, “Only Mom wasn’t playing the piano while we were driving.”
The Royaltys contribute to their local churches, as well. Nancy will play the piano on occasion at Immanuel Baptist Church, Bob leads the singing at Shawnee Run Baptist Church while Darryl leads the music at Bluegrass Pike Baptist Church. But it all began at Haggin’s extended care when Nancy met up with Ms. Louise, with whom she once attended church.
“Ms. Louise told me they have folks coming to preach, which is wonderful, but said they still needed someone to sing and play,” said Nancy. “So I went to my boys and said, ‘Hey, how’d you like to sing and play for some very special people?’” And that’s exactly what the three Royaltys have been doing for the last four years.
“And this is just as uplifting for us as it is for our audience,” said Darryl. “When you see them singing out of their hearts, boy, that’s what really moves us.
Patsy Harmon is the activity director at Haggin’s extended care unit and knows how powerful spiritual activities can be for her residents.
“People such as Nancy, Bob and Darryl help fill a spiritual need that so many of our residents find so very important,” said Harmon. “In addition, I believe it increases self-worth, keeps the residents in touch with their spiritual background and brings back a lot of good memories.”
However, it's not just memories that the Royaltys bring back for the residents. It also gives everyone something to look forward to.
Just ask Ms. Louise. “You come by next Friday, I’m gonna wear another nice outfit,” she said.
And you can bet the Royalty family will be looking just as forward to Ms. Louise and her friends as the residents are to listening to the music.