I recently played at a Celebration of Life Service for a woman who lived beyond her 100th birthday, with 98 of those years living independently in her home.
When I met Caroline at a local hospice facility, she had been ill for only a few weeks. She had caught a cold that developed into pneumonia. Though she had been active and healthy only a few weeks prior, her body was quickly overwhelmed by the infection. After a few days in the hospital, her family and doctors decided that hospice care would be the best way to care for Caroline.
When I met Caroline and her family, Caroline was unresponsive, but clearly agitated. She had been given medicine to help calm her, but her chin quivered as though she was shivering from cold. The family was anxious with the notion that Caroline was suffering and there seemed to be little that anyone could do to comfort her.
Caroline’s daughter, Teresa, told me that her mother loved music and asked if I could play something that might sooth her mother. I improvised for a few moments while searching for frequencies or modes that might help Caroline rest. I began playing an original interlude to ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ when Teresa asked me the name of the song I was playing. I briefly explained that it was a piece that I sometimes use for that song. Teresa exclaimed, That’s my mom’s #1, All Time Favorite song. If you play it, I KNOW she will hear it and respond.
As I repeated the interlude and moved into the first verse, Caroline’s eyes brightened. Then her chin stopped quivering. Lying on her side, she raised her arm and reached for Teresa, who was sitting at her mother’s bedside. Teresa took Caroline’s hand and whispered, ‘I’m here mom. I’m right here. Everything is going to be fine’.
Caroline lowered her hand and closed her eyes. As I played some other songs from her era, we all realized at about the same time that Caroline was resting peacefully still. For the next 20 minutes, Caroline did not move or respond as I played.
Teresa left a voice mail two days later to tell me that her mom had passed away the following day and that the family wanted me to provide music at her memorial service. After the service, Teresa shared that Caroline’s last day had been very peaceful. She thanked me for easing her mom’s agitation and for the gift that I gave to them both – as mother and daughter shared one final act of love provided by the Gift of Music.
*Names have been changed to protect identities and comply with HIPAA Guidelines