I’ve written before about my younger sister, Kathryn Mary, who was born on September 13, 1972. Within a couple of days of her birth, her doctors discovered that she had Down syndrome and a heart defect that was going to eventually need to be corrected with open-heart surgery.
Unfortunately, Kathryn never got to a point where she had enough strength and stamina to withstand a surgery. She was so weak that she was never able to turn herself over or crawl on the floor. She gained very little weight during the 13 months that she was with us. She died on October 19, 1973.
Kathryn was with us for only one Christmas, and there is only one thing that I remember about that day. My grandfather, Tom Williams, came over to our house and when he saw my mom holding Kathryn, he said in a loud voice, “She’s the best Christmas present you could ever ask for. You should wrap a red bow around her and forget about all the other presents.”
Shortly after the birth of our little Christmas present, one of her doctors told my parents that children who are born with Down syndrome have a great love of and appreciation for music. The doctor encouraged my parents to play music for Kathryn as often as possible. My mom did what the doctor told her to do and played soothing music as often as possible, especially when she was trying to calm Kathryn down or put her to sleep.
Although it’s been more than 40 years since Kathryn died and went to heaven, I still think of her when I consider the impact that music has had on my life and on the lives of my children.
As a society, we’ve learned a lot during the past 40 years about the calming and healing power of music. There are now more than 5,000 board-certified music therapists in the United States who have the training to use music to help people socially, emotionally, physically, cognitively, and developmentally.
In an article that was published in 2010 by Kimberly Sena Moore, a board-certified neurological music therapist, she outlined the following 12 brain-based reasons why music therapy works with children, teenagers, and adults:
We know intuitively that music is the ultimate form of communication. Why? Because of its profound ability to tap into and connect with our emotions. While words speak to the logical and rational side of our brains, music penetrates deep within the emotional side of our brains.
Depending on how music is combined with words and images, a person can be made to experience conflict, love, anxiety, fear, sadness, security, peace, or excitement.
I have a question for you: What do you think happened in heaven on that Christmas Day when the Blessed Virgin Mary gave birth to the Son of God? I expect that there was a magnificent celebration in heaven that included musical performances by the nine choirs of angels — the Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Dominions, Virtues, Powers, Archangels, Principalities, and Angels.
I would also expect that the cold barn that Jesus was born in was also filled with heavenly music.
What is it that most people look forward to each year during the Christmas season? Whether we realize it or not, we look forward to the Christmas music, especially the traditional Christmas hymns that we all grew up with.
God has showered us with numerous gifts, but one of the most precious gifts that He gave to each of us was the gift of music.
There’s a saying among musicians that “Music captures a moment in time.” For most of us, there is a song from our past that we have attached special emotions to. Whenever we hear the song, we are immediately taken back to the moment in time when our emotions first become connected to the song — a moment of either great happiness or great sorrow.
In heaven, every moment will be like that special moment in time, but there will no longer be any moments of sadness or grief. Every moment will be filled with everlasting joy and wonder.
One of the first things I’m going to do when I get to heaven is ask my sister, Kathryn Mary, to sing for me. I anticipate that she will be joined in song by the heavenly choir. That is one moment that I’m really looking forward to.
I hope your life is filled with joyful music on Christmas and throughout the New Year.