Unwrapping the True Gifts of Music

Have you started shopping for the holidays? 
  
I bet you’d like your gift giving to be meaningful and bring you closer together to the people you love. 
  
One of my favorite Christmas gifts costs nothing. Better yet, I receive this same gift year after year and I never grow tired of it. Here’s why. 
  
For years I sang Oh Holy Night standing next to my mother in church. We would harmonize and our voices were perfectly matched. After she passed away it was years before I could sing that song. I just couldn’t do it without crying. It’s been over 25 years since she’s been gone. I miss her still – especially this time of year. But now – I can sing Oh Holy Night. It makes me happy to remember my mom even as I revisit the sadness of missing her. 
  
That song is now a gift to me. 
  
The holidays are a time when the music we hear can seem even more powerful, plunging us deep into memories and eliciting a strong emotional response. Happy or sad - and just like the memory of my mother - often happy and sad at the same time! 
  
We all have these emotional memories linked to music. 
  
For people living with dementia, the songs of the season may be even more powerful; literally giving them access to memories and feelings that at other times may seem too far away to enjoy. 
  
The songs of our youth, including so many well known holiday songs, are stored away in a part of the brain that is often less damaged by dementia. 
  
Because of that, it is one of the most precious gifts we can give to someone living with memory loss. 
  
Oh Holy Night gives me a sweet memory of my mother. I can literally feel the warmth of her love.  And even though she is gone, I can enjoy a sense of connection to her.   
  
I spend my days singing with older adults – many of whom are living with dementia. Each day I see the music crack open the memories. I hear the stories, the memories. And I feel the love. 
  
Awakening memories and feelings, connecting and sharing joy – these are the gifts of music. 
  
And aren’t they the best gifts anyone could receive? 
  
Wishing you all a holiday season that brings you beautiful music and fond memories, as well as the opportunity to create new memories with your loved ones and friends. 
  
Mary Sue 
  
PS. Need some help finding a good list of holiday songs, including lyrics? Check out the Resource Library on my website.

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