I am delighted to have added an excellent video to the blog about Music Thanatology, especially since the lovely harper in the video page link is my harp teacher from many years and is a dear friend with whom I still meet and discuss harp, music, and more mundane matter.
Speaking of music and dying, I was asked by a chaplain on Thursday to play for someone who was dying in the ED and had no family or friends to keep the patient company during the transitus (movement/change) from this life to the next.
I arrived at the ED and was directed to a small room where a nurse was monitoring the patient's vitals. I introduced myself and sat so I could be near the end of the gurney so I could observe both the patient and the monitors.
The patient was restless and breathing with a mask, the head moving from side to side.
I began to play softly, choosing some celtic slow laments and lullabies while keeping a watch for where the patient would take me next. After about 15 minutes of playing, the nurse and I noted the vitals beginning to drop and the patient was less restless. I slowed my playing even more and began to find notes that I believed would allow more rest and comfort for the patient....not tunes per se, but notes of peace.
After 30 minutes or so, the vitals were near to 0, and the patient gave a deep sigh. The nurse checked her pulse and heart, then noted the time of death in her log.
I continued to play for another few minutes for the soul's journey and then thanked the staff for having me be with her.
Looking back, I now know I was in two places at the same time. One was the "real" world of the ED, the sounds of the hustle and bustle of nurses and doctors, bells and pings of monitors, x-ray machines being moved about and anxious relatives watching and pacing.
However, I also went to a deeper and sacred place with the patient as I kept vigil where time was both immediate and forever. Keeping watch when transitus is close, is truly in a different place than when I play by the bedside of someone who will usually be up and about in some day's time.
All I can say is that for me, this is "holy" work and I am humbled to be asked to bring what comfort the music and harp can provide. They provide the true comfort, I am but an assistant to the real grace of the power of music.
Blessings and peace to you this first of December.