Knowing Christmas was going to be different, I started to think about the things I value about the Christmas season and how I could bring some of that to Reno. It was not difficult for me to immediately think of my grandma in the nursing home because that is where I spend most of my time-- in long-term care facilities, leading group music therapy sessions for seniors from all walks of life with an array of diagnosis’. I knew immediately it would be meaningful to the nursing home residents to have music on Christmas Day. Little did I know how much it would mean to everyone, including myself.
On Christmas Day, I was perceiving my family to feel a little awkward about the upcoming music therapy session. They were slightly complaining that it was in the middle of the day and I think a little nervous about what the response or outcome would be. I have to admit, I’ve never sang solo in front of my parents since I was a child and they have certainly never heard me play guitar before. I'm naturally not a performer and would refuse when asked as a child. Also, I knew my grandma would be the first one to tell me if she didn't like it. However, what was to come I couldn’t have asked for a better result.
My grandpa arrived early to get his wife ready for the session. I came and sat up per usual and began introducing myself to the residents in the room, engaging with them. My parents awkwardly found a spot against the back wall.
I started the session. We sang a ton of Winter and Christmas songs. They played music with me. We discussed the history and tradition of Santa Claus and Christmas. All the while I’m noticing my grandma--whom by the way usually conveniently decides she can’t remember most things--was singing word for word just about every song! I was fearful that she would make a fuss about how it wasn’t very good, but no! She was just the opposite. I was noticing how my grandpa was engaged in the session as well. He has always been musically inclined and I noticed his harmonization while we were singing.
Now, in my practice, my goal when I work with families is to get them creating music together, to in turn create beautiful memories, so that the family can look back and remember something positive during the hardness of their loved ones disease. This goal was exactly what I was able to accomplish for myself and my family.
I called my grandpa up to the front of the room announcing we had a special treat because my grandpa has a wonderful singing voice and ability to harmonize. We sang Silent Night and my mom recorded it. He was honored, given value and worth and praised by all listening. To a man who lives alone, who’s been a caregiver for the past decade to a difficult woman, a man who never receives recognition for his daily care or consistency, music therapy was able to communicate value and worth to him in those few minutes. For me, the experience of seeing him and his wife singing and enjoying the music, along with the other residents, was the best Christmas gift I could have ever received.
The other residents were tickled to pieces with the music and the sheer fun they had. One woman’s comment was, “God kept me alive just so I could be here with you today”. Talk about powerful! Music has the power to communicate a great deal of positivity, warmth and love to others. For this lady, music was HOPE.
As for my parents, my dad cried through the whole session. Later, when we discussed it, he said, “It touched me to see my daughter in her element. It was such a blessing to everyone in the room; I’m so glad we did that today.”