Music in Hospice

I write about my experiences in Hospice because I'm always humbled when I play for patients and families. Yesterday, I went to the main facility to play for inpatient residents. One of the nurses told me that one gentleman, in particular, would enjoy the music so I made his room my first stop. I remember walking in and seeing him turn to me and smile. He seemed so calm and I began to wonder piece I should play first. I started with When The Saints Go Marching by beginning with a Major 6th interval, E on the D string and C# on the A. I used the lower E as a pedal tone against the main melody. I thought the pedal tone could blend with the patient's demeanor and resonate well with the room's acoustics.

I remember the patient crying after I finished playing the song. He asked where I was from and where I played. I paused and rested the violin by my side. I could hear the tremble in his voice and feel fear. What caused the change? I stayed present and just talked with the patient. He told me how much he appreciated the music and how beautiful the violin sounded in the room. I smiled and played Somewhere Over the Rainbow. I could hear him mouth the words to the song so I let him guide the music. I extended time and let the music breathe as he needed.

After the music, I thanked him for allowing me to play. He, however, caught me off guard with what he said next. He told me to keep playing for others and that I was doing a good thing. Honestly, I've heard that from people in church and friends but it hit deep when he said it. I was a stranger to him yet despite his inevitable transition, he took the time to uplift me and make my day.

I had the opportunity to also play for another patient following the music session. One of the nurses walked ahead of me into the room asking the patient's husband if he would like to hear the violin. He asked how it worked and if they brought in a recording. He seemed shocked to see me walk into the room with a violin. I began with Edelweiss and watched the husband hold his wife's hand. He stood beside her bed and held her close. I grew scared because I thought she could transition any moment. I kept playing as he squeezed her hand and whispered in her ear. He sang to her as I played and I struggled to hold it together. I felt honored to be a part of the moment and continued to play the song. His wife opened her eyes and began to move her hand. She didn't speak but I felt it was time to give them space.

After I closed the door, I looked at the nurse and visibly exhaled. That was one of the most heartwrenching sessions I've had in awhile but I was thankful I could be of service.

Every week I play for Hospice patients and I grow increasingly grateful that I can use the violin to make a difference and hope I can continue.