By Mark Pattison
WASHINGTON (CNS) – Grace Griffith, a vocalist who has had Parkinson’s disease since 1996, announced in 2003 that she was making her swan song from the stage.
But life goes on, however bumpy the ride for the Catholic singer. Since 2003, she has released three other albums, including her latest, “Passing Through.” Now diagnosed with “Parkinson’s Plus” – Parkinson’s disease and dementia – the 58-year-old Griffith would go to a friend’s recording studio on Saturdays to complete the vocal tracks, even if it resulted in only two usable lines for one song during the session.
“It’s kind of a miracle that it was even able to happen,” said Marcy Marxer, a friend and fellow musician who produced Griffith’s earlier albums. “It sounds beautiful. She’s proud of it.”
Over her career, Griffith has received multiple Wammies from the Washington Area Music Association for her folk and Celtic music and has performed on the global stage.
But her condition has deteriorated. She’s moved into an assisted living center and her speech is not always intelligible, according to Marxer. “But she sings out strong.”
A new speech therapy regimen designed for those with Parkinson’s has shown fine results, but Griffith’s health coverage pays for only 30 therapy sessions during a calendar year, “and those were used up by the end of February,” Marxer told Catholic News Service from her Maryland home, which is across the street from Griffith’s assisted living center. “Anyone in the Medicare system will experience the same thing.”