It was just before Christmas when Harry invited me to spend an evening with him and his family. When he suggested I come to facilitate a music-filled evening he included a very compelling reason – “It is the first time in 10 years that all my children will be home for Christmas, and I want to make it special for them.” He went on to say, “you said that by giving people a choice of song, you are giving every person a voice and an opportunity to teach you something about themselves. I want to hear what is important to my children and create an evening to remember.” How could I resist?
David Aldridge, chair of qualitative research in medicine at the University Witten Herdecke (Germany) says “using songs in a therapy setting promotes communication,” he says. “Singing has many functions; it offers a communicative structure, stimulates and regulates, and enables dialogue.”
And that is exactly what happened – it was an evening to remember: full of songs, stories, emotions and heartfelt family spirit. Music, the master connector, at work again.
A month later I received a letter from Harry. He wrote:Dear Jennifer, I can’t thank you enough for coming to my home at Christmas time. It was the ‘special time’ I knew it would be. What I didn’t mention to you then is that I have been experiencing extreme and unusual mood swings. These changes in behaviour have been very difficult and frustrating for my family. They have been very worried. Just shortly after Christmas I was given the diagnosis I was expecting. I have Alzheimers Disease. Last Christmas may be last Christmas I remember with my family. I hope the music will trigger the special memories we shared that evening. Thank you for the gift of music. Harry
After I stumbled over the words, and dare I say cry a bit in my car, I had an opportunity to reflect on Harry’s words. He is exactly correct, music when used with the right intention it has the power to take you from feeling totally lost, to feeling comforted and less alone. Music can take you from unruly behaviours, to a calm demeanor in just minutes. Music will continue to trigger associations to non-musical events for Harry and music will continue to help him connect with his family when he (and they) feel the most disconnected.