My father was dying.
Music Heals. I'd like to hear your experiences. Please comment below.
I was lost.
Has someone's death left you feeling empty, purposeless? Any suggestions about how to fill the hole?
Ready to trash the magazine, I stopped at an ad.
Has something you wanted ever fallen in your lap?
Any thoughts about why this might happen?
"Hon, I think I've found a program I want to enroll in," I said to my husband. "Listen to this. A Certified Music Practitioner provides live bedside music to the critically and chronically ill, the elderly and dying."
Applying to Music for Healing and Transition Program, Inc. felt risky, but a good kind of risky. My usual self-doubt tried to talk me out of it, but I proceeded. There was a flaw in the actual application: scant space to include all my musical experiences.
Check out the Music for Healing and Transition, Inc. website.
Two weeks after I sent in my application (to Music for Healing and Transition Program, Inc), an acceptance letter arrived along with an award for a partial scholarship granted for musical knowledge and experience.
Rather miraculously my Nurse Practitioner friend, Sue Casler, with whom I played old time music, had heard of MHTP and ended up joining me for the certification process.
Spirited discussions as we drove back and forth to intense weekend modules added depth to our experience. Sue knew how to interpret the scientific and medical aspects of our training. This was not easy material.
Sue's presence was a gift. And unexpected. Do I dare call her an angel?
What do you think?
We turned left to enter the patient wing. I was struck by how quiet it was, how the warm sage-green carpet and wall color gave off an aura of calm, a sense of refreshment.
Kathleen is retiring from the House this year. Her impact on her patients, the staff and on me cannot be measured. The sound of her reassuring voice, her gentle manner, expertise, and inspiration remain with me. You will get to know her better in Musical Morphine.
Do you have a "Kathleen" you would like to honor?
I stopped at the door leading into his room, squared my shoulders, took a deep breath and stood there. Classes taught me to park my ego at the door... I asked for guidance from God and visualized the door frame as a halo of love blessing me as I stepped into the unknown.
There are always "firsts" like mine. Life asks us to step forward into the unknown.
How do/did you handle them?
I opened the door and walked in. A man was seated alone on a long floral-print sofa facing the fireplace. The fire was still going.
A well-dressed patient seated in a great room certainly was not what I expected to encounter at a Hospice House. Does this surprise you?
"I'm wondering if you'd like some soothing music this afternoon. This is not a concert. And if you've had enough, I'll stop anytime. The music is designed to help you rest, relax, feel better."
Making assumptions about someone based upon a first meeting is natural. Have you jumped to conclusions like I did? Did your first impression ever change?
Instead of a flat no thank you he said, "I like classical music," rather emphatically.
Just how hard should you try to convince a very ill or dying person to try something new, something you think might enrich their lives?
Share your experience in the comments
Bob became an avid fan of all kinds of my music over the next weeks.
Here was a situation where I came to give my patient music but there were others present. As a CMP my work is patient-centered. And the family members charged the room with negativity. What would you do in this situation? Escape, like I wanted to?
For some reason I had packed another instrument that day, a rhythm instrument called a limberjack. I wondered how this fit with protocol and hesitated a moment. A limberjack in a Hospice setting?
My patient, Bob, was watching me and the limberjack intently. I noticed him motion to one of his sons who got up and disappeared into the Hospice kitchen. I continued singing and dancing the limberjack. Dance Jim along, Jim along Josie, Dance Jim along Jim along Joe.
Bob really surprised me. The classical music lover now playing the spoons! Share your thoughts below.
Everyone's eyes were on Bob, playing the spoons. One of the daughters pulled a camera from her purse and began snapping pictures. The sons sat forward on their chairs; their faces softened, their shoulders relaxed. I felt the heavy atmosphere begin to dissipate.
Bob was so alive in this moment, but there were rules, guidelines about sharing instruments with patients. What should I do?
What would YOU do? Please share below.
Without hesitation the adult sons lifted their dad onto the coffee table's edge and sat on either side of him to ensure his safety. I handed over the limberjack, grabbed my guitar and off we went.
Have you ever witnessed music precipitating such a dramatic change? Maybe in yourself or someone else. I'd love to hear your story. Share below...
When we stopped singing and playing, small conversations started up among family members. I thought this was a good time to excuse myself and allow the family to enjoy their privacy. The atmosphere had changed dramatically.
Knowing when to stop the music is crucial. The miracle is that the music continues to work its magic even after it ceases. Are you affected by any other medium as much as you are by music? Share your thoughts below...
Bob became bedridden. One morning as I sang and played for him in his room, he blurted out, "When you give me music, I don't feel my pain." Our eyes met. I could hardly continue singing, but I caught my breath and tried not to interrupt the music.
Eventually Bob lapsed into non-responsiveness, a term used in place of unconsciousness. His eyes were shut, but his breathing, although somewhat labored, was regular and steady. Knowing his hearing was intact, I entered his room one late November afternoon, sat beside his bed and sang to him. Just my voice, no instruments.
My voice alone without any accompaniment was appropriate for Bob at this point. Do you have some thoughts about what more stimulation might do to a dying person? Share below.
"Bob, I'm going to miss you." I felt another weak squeeze to my hand. I stood up over him, slid my hand out of his.
Bob and I joked about him making his final journey up. He never used the term heaven. I did not share my personal beliefs with him. Classes taught me to keep them out of my work. Is this a good idea or not? Please share your thoughts below.
I mourned the loss of my first patient, dreaded returning to the Hospice House the next week and walking past Bob's empty room. Could I hold myself together to offer healing music to the other patients?
My first experience with losing a patient opened me to the reality of doing Hospice work. Ironically, working with Hospice patients brings me great joy even in the face of constant loss. Any ideas why? Please share below.
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