Life and Death Matters – and so does Music!

Life and Death Matters – and so does Music!

Life & Death Matters Post

We were driving our ancient VW van through the mountains of central Mexico.  I begged my dear hubby to sing to me, “Please Ted, PLEASE, sing me just one song.” He turns to me, smiles and sings, “Old Faithful, we’ve roamed the range together, when the round up days are over, there’ll be pastures full of clover, for you, my faithful friend of mine!”  My first, last and only love song!

Sometimes when I hear friends sing I ask…. “Will you come and sing to me if I ever get sick?” If they say, “Of course, yes…” then I might push it further and ask, “Why do we have to wait until I am sick… do you want to come and sing while I am healthy?”

“If you come for dinner, you get to sing for your supper” the kids tell visitors!

“Let’s sing another song…This is my annual soul food – I can’t survive without a good bunch of songs to last me until next year!”  is my refrain as I beg my husband’s family at our nearly annual family gathering and sing along.

My love of music does not match my musical abilities – but I love it anyways!

The idea of “music care” as an intervention resonates deeply with me.   We developed Life and Death Matters, and then LDM Online (Death Dying and Palliative Care Education Online) to help increase the ability of the individual to provide excellent care for the dying and bereaved.  I have seen nurses, volunteers, physicians, counsellors, and music therapists enhance care of the dying by integrating music in their caregiving.

We were thrilled to meet Bev Foster from Room 217 ( ) and even more thrilled when Bev taught  “Music Care: Caring for the dying person with music” in our online program.  The course was extremely well received by individuals from across Canada in diverse communities.  After reflecting on personal experiences, reading and learning from classic and current theory in music care, they were able to take their learning and develop tool kits to use in their own practice.  They also developed a network of individuals from across Canada.

As a nurse, one of the most important lessons about Music Care was the realization that music is an intervention, and that no music should be played with an assumption that it is the right music.  Silence is better than the wrong music.

3 Responses

  1. I have been a Hospice volunteer in Orlando, Florida for eight years.
    I frequently play music for my patients in facilities (on an MP3 player).
    Even those patients who are no longer able to respond verbally (especially those in the middle to late stages of Alzheimer’s)appear more alert and attempt to smile. Andre Rieu’s violin and orchestra music appears to trigger good memories of their past lives. One little lady comes into the room where I am with my patient, and starts to dance. The Staff has often told me that they appreciate it also. Ronee Henson

  2. Hi Kath, Just saw your blog for Aug 4/11. How very true, particularily in our line of work. I chair teleconferences every month with all the front line – community care workers who provide palliative care in NW BC. I am going to share this with them, and seek comments. I plan to include it in the ‘education’ section of our monthly meetings. I think placement of the piece there is relevant. Thank you for another insightful note.

    1. Hi Margaret
      Lovely to hear from you. Thanks much for taking the time to respond.
      SO glad that the comments are relevant to you and your practice.
      Have a great autumn and enjoy the last days of summer!

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Courtney Murrell is a PSW who works in hospice palliative care.

When she is not at work, she is spending time with her family, going on hikes or writing. Courtney is a lifelong learner and loves to share her passion for writing as a wellness practice.

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