This week I was reminded again why I do what I do as a music therapist. An older couple had just moved into a nursing home together from their farm in the past week, and the woman (we’ll call her Betty) was in her final days of life on hospice care. As the hospice team cares for the whole family, I was asked to share music first with her husband (we’ll call him Jerry) to reminisce, and then with his wife at the end of the session. I was told Jerry was proud of playing trombone in marching bands, and as soon as I asked him about it, the memories unfolded. He had actually played a two-night gig with Tommy Dorsey when he’d come to his town, and sat right next to him! And when Jerry shipped out for military service overseas, he heard the Andrews Sisters sing him off and welcome him back home again!

So after singing songs from that era and reminiscing a while, I turned to play soothing hymns for his wife. Although she didn’t open her eyes, her eyebrows lifted in awareness. Jerry commented “I can tell the music is still reaching her. On certain pitches, her breathing changed.” On my way out of the room, Jerry’s son thanked me for visiting, commenting: “This is the most he’s come out of his shell since he moved here last week. I saw the twinkle in his eye again. You’ve given him a much-needed release from our current situation.” I’m constantly amazed at what music can do in the hands of a well-trained music therapist.

~Lucy Schipper, MT-BC