What do I enjoy about being a Music Therapist? What I like to do as an MT? Here are some thoughts/memories:
In an older adult facility, many of my clients have various stages of memory impairment, physical challenges, and fears. I try to honor each person as an individual and respect their family’s wishes.
In a Hospice situation, I try to offer a safe place for family members to hug their loved one with music and gently say ‘goodbye’. Many people have different views on what a person can hear during their stages of dying. I lean toward the possibilities of hearing on some level we don’t have to understand, spiritual connection, and respect for the loved one and the family members.
There are powerful messages in music. “Embraceable You” becomes a message of love and goodbye and a promise of connection and memory. “Goodnight Sweetheart” becomes a promise to see each other at another time and place.
I have been lucky enough to witness a father was reaching up with his arms and smiling as his daughter and I sang “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” a few days before he died.
I was with a client and her 3 adult children who were hugging, crying, being brave, trying to cuddle with their mom in her bed. We sang love songs and hymns that the adult children knew she had enjoyed and ended with “I’ll Fly Away”. They were sure she passed at the end of that song and that they did all they could to love her through that journey.
One lovely 92 year old woman was stately and handsome. As a bit of a rebel, she helped rewrite words to songs and made suggestions about songs in a safe, non-judgmental place. She also sang “You Are My Sunshine” to each loved one who visited her. She had been generous all of her life and this was all she could give now. I would tell her I didn’t want to use up any precious energy of hers, but she would start singing without me and fall sleep before the song was over.
With my clients who experience dementia, I try to discover and honor the essence of each person that’s still inside. One client demanded “Danny Boy” each time we were together. As a gift to his visitors, he requested I sing to them as well. The day before he died, he looked better and more energetic than he had for days. We learn in hospice he was rallying. He smiled and asked me to sing “Danny Boy” to someone behind him. I didn’t see anyone but I believe he did. I sang his song, he turned to the source of the other he heard and said “‘See? Didn’t I tell you you like that?”
One of my favorite people will always be a dear and petite woman who survived Auschwitz. She often had clever things to say when I would visit her for a private session or in a group. One time when she didn’t feel well she said, ‘I don’t feel so good, I already know you can sing so next time.’ and I was dismissed. She came to most of the music therapy groups and strongly sang out on ‘You Are My Sunshine’ and ‘Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree’. During some of our one on one visits I would bring 2 ukuleles. She didn’t remember one session to the next so each ukulele lesson was fresh. The best was when she said she’d always wanted to learn piano. She shrugged her shoulders and said ‘too late’. I told her she could play the uke right now if she was interested and her eyes opened wide and she smiled. I handed her one and she began strumming the open C6 chord. I played the other chords and we sang “You Are My Sunshine” When we finished, she smiled and shrugged her shoulders again, this time saying,”Who knew I was such a musician!”