It’s been over a year since I became involved in this beautiful work with people on their end-of-life journeys, and since I knew all of us who come to this work bring our unique gifts to share, I trusted that I would find my way in companionship with the dying as long as I was simply myself. It didn’t take me long to discover where my gifts would be most useful.
From the time I was young music played a big part of my life – my grandma sang, my father can play any instrument he gets his hands on – music has always surrounded me. Over the last 20 years, my guitar has traveled with me across the United States repeatedly – it has been a constant presence to remind me of who I am and where I have come from. So, it was only natural to bring it with me to share what brings me joy with those I am given the opportunity to visit. I wasn’t sure how it would work out the first time I walked into a room with it, but the patients I have visited have all been very happy to have me play and sing for them. Some have even remembered the harmonies to the old hymns as they sang along!
As my time with them passes, patients add their voices to mine for shorter and shorter periods of time during our visits, but so far they continue to sing at least a little at every visit before drifting into a peaceful sleep. Sometimes as I play I seem to hear a voice join mine, but then look up to discover that the patient is actually asleep. The rest of the time I play and sing for them as I would for my dear ones who are sleeping, and every once in awhile they’ll surprise me and “wake up” to join in on a song. There have even been precious moments where family members have been there to share the songs with us and been able to get a glimpse of a younger version of their loved one through the music. This music has not only given us our own unique communication and relationship, it also creates a precious atmosphere of peace and tranquility — the sound seems to hang in the air where we can breathe it — where it can become part of us. Our life journeys have been woven together during these visits, and in a very real way, they have now become part of my life story.
In this sacred work my relationship to music has facilitated my connection to patients, creating the “way” for companionship that I was looking for when I began. Even when words fail, music and song have given us the “heart-to-heart conversation” we need. I am able to walk into a patient’s room with no expectations and play whatever it seems they need to hear at the time. Whether we start out with something upbeat that they can clap along to, or it’s obvious that they are in need of something more like a lullaby to soothe them to sleep, my guitar and I can provide whatever is necessary at the moment. It has been such a privilege to become a part of these lives as they have become part of my own, and now I find myself treasuring the memories we create together more than I ever thought possible when I started. I’m so grateful for the blessings this work has given me over this past year and so thankful that my life path has brought me here. It has all been such Grace.