Music-thanatologists Laura Moya and Andrea Partenheimer were recently featured in the Catholic Sentinel. Music-thanatology has been integrated into care at two Providence hospitals in Portland, Oregon for more than a decade. As Fr. Bruce Cwiekowski, Director of Spiritual Care at Providence Portland Medical Center, puts it, “Music thanatology reminds us that this is as sacred a moment as birthing, despite the sorrow.”
The patient featured in the story, Richard Redmond, was reluctant to allow music-thanatology into his hospital room. A 92-year-old retired Navy officer, he was not a particular fan of soft music. But once he experienced the music vigil, he asked that the music-thanatologist return. His son noted his own experience of relaxation while listening to the music.
It is sometimes challenging to introduce music-thanatology. Where else can we experience music tailored specifically to us, to our breath, to our facial expression and heart rate? How often does a stranger with a harp share intimate moments of saying good-bye to our loved ones? But when the door is opened, even slightly, to music-thanatology, patients and families most often have an experience of beauty, reverence, and calm that transforms their initial skepticism and invites music to continue to accompany them.