Me – A Music Therapist’s Reflection
I knock on the door of my client’s apartment. I see him for weekly individual music therapy sessions at the memory care facility where he resides. Some days we talk and joke and laugh together. Other days we focus on getting up and moving, made all the easier by the fact that he loves to dance. Sometimes he forgets that someone once told him he couldn’t sing, and raises his voice in song with mine. Some days there is pain, physical and emotional. On these days, we let the music guide us toward relaxation and peace.
There are other days when he wants to sing, but the words don’t come out quite right. He wants to dance with his wife, but his legs just won’t support him like they did. He finds he can’t put names to faces, even for his grandchildren. Something has been taken from him. His voice. His independence. His identity. Time.
Today, I walk into his apartment in time to hear him shouting these words.
“You think that I don’t know, but I do know! I am ME!”
He’s pacing the room. I set down my guitar and greet him. We sit down and the session begins. He’s breathing unevenly and is physically tense. I alter the tempo and strum pattern on my guitar as we make our way through vocal warm-ups and breathing exercises. Inhale, exhale… we continue like this. I notice that his breathing has slowed and deepened, his fists have unclenched, his internal rhythms have entrained to the musical environment.
You think that I don’t know…
The session progresses and his wife sits down with us. He always sings more when she’s singing with him. We’ve sung through several favorites together, when I learn that today is their anniversary. 65 years. I ask them what their wedding song is. Tennessee Waltz. I play. They dance. No sign of the man who was frantically pacing the room just a short time earlier. Now he is just a husband, dancing with his wife on their anniversary. Smiling through tears, crying through smiles. A musical catalyst to bring two humans into a new emotional space.
But I do know…
Tired from dancing, they sit. We reminisce about their wedding day. We talk about their family, their children, their daughter who performed in musicals throughout high school. We close out the session with some help from Rogers & Hammerstein. I pack my guitar, and we say our farewells. The session ends, but the connection remains.
I am ME…
This uniquely human experience called “Music” connects us all across time and place, without needing words. It brings us to a space where we can acknowledge and honor our experiences and the feelings they bring. It can make us dance, or bring us rest. Energize and inspire a weary soul, or calm an anxious heart. It can give us back to ourselves.
Son. Brother. Friend. Soldier. Husband. Father.