Hospice singers provide gift for the dying
Westborough – Feeling frustrated that she couldn’t provide comfort for her dying sister, and wanting to do more for others in a similar situation, local resident Kathy Todd has formed a singing group whose main focus is to sing for hospice patients.
Called the Journey Home Singers, the a cappella group has about 20 members. The Journey Home Singers have been rehearsing since June, meeting once a week, from 4-5 p.m. on Wednesdays at the Congregational Church in Westborough.
“When my sister died I was left wishing there was something else I could do to ease the stress and make it less traumatic for her,” Todd said. “But there was nothing I could do and I just sat there until next morning when she passed.”
In October of 2008, the month after her sister died, Todd was attending a conference on Singing in the African American Tradition when she ran into a woman handing out brochures about a workshop on hospice singing to be held the following month.
Fighting an initial reaction that it wasn’t for her, Todd saw the same woman later that day and thought maybe hospice singing was something worth looking into, or reading about, at least.
After giving the subject lots of thought, Todd decided to attend the hospice-singing workshop.
“My knee-jerk reaction was that it was not for me,” Todd said, “but the more I thought about it the more I felt like I was being guided in this direction. I was really inspired by the workshop and hearing people sing and I came to the realization that this was something I could do for someone who is dying.”
Todd researched the subject over the winter on the Internet and learned that groups were being formed locally and nationally and decided to see if there was enough interest in Westborough and the surrounding towns to form a group.
“I reached out via email to the community, to church choirs, to community choruses looking to get experienced singers,” Todd said. “Amazingly enough, people were interested in doing this. Not everybody said, ‘Oh, Yes, I want to do that.’ Some people said there was no way they could do it, that they wouldn’t be able to sing. It takes someone who has a huge reservoir of compassion. Someone that doesn’t get threatened by the aura that’s in the room when someone is dying. If you’re not expecting it, it can be disturbing.”
So far, the Journey Home Singers have sung three times and had a fourth engagement snowed out. They have sung twice for the same patient in the Beaumont living facility in Westborough and once in the commons room in the Beaumont facility in Northborough. When they sing, the group sings for about 20 minutes before pausing and asking the patient if he/she would like them to continue.
“One of the important parts about doing the singing is it’s not a performance in which there is applause,” Todd said. “We need to leave our egos outside. Our compassionate feeling make us want to help people. If we can keep the ego out of that helping, then true healing can occur. We need to go into it with no expectations of anything for ourselves other than just wanting to be with that person, be a comforting presence to that person.
“Our intention is to be a companion to the person who is dying, for a little while, on the path that they’re traveling, because it’s a pretty lonely path,” Todd continued. “It’s just to give comfort, companionship, and joy if possible, The reactions from people we have sung for have been very positive.”
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