“Looking into your eyes, I cannot see you, only the opening of the prairie, the wind storming lifting us all up, the breath of God, Great Spirit lilting through your soul strong in music, I keep looking up half expecting rain. The room is lush with constructed ecosystems, machines drip with your fluids and the wind that blows currents of a river going nowhere, everywhere eternally”

  - Notes from a vigil

Music-Thanatology is the use of live music, prescribed for the individual, sung and accompanied by the harp in response to the rhythm of the breath to ease pain and provide a visceral experience of the infinite at the end of life.

Harp and vocal music is played, gently focussed upon and tuning into the rhythm of the breath of the person who is dying. This process of entraining the breath provides the practioner with the opportunity to slow the breathing and pulse rate of the patient. It is this slowing and easing of respirations that can be deeply relaxing even sometimes giving pain relief to the extent that medications are reduced allowing the patient greater orientation.

There is also an emotional connection created by this matching of the key and tempo of the music to the patient’s condition that can give all those present an experience of timelessness and calm, an expansive quality that holds the challenges of pain and suffering. The musical field allows the expression of sadness and love to be articulated. This supports both the person who is dying and their family, sometimes as a gentle accompaniment to the final stages of letting go of life.

I have pursued various paths of training and working in psychosocial settings, most intensively, my two and a half year training, apprenticeship and certification in Music-Thanatology. This training included the integration and practical application of medicine, spiritual psychology, music and anthropology within hospital, hospice and nursing home settings. Working with the dying feels a culmination and synthesis of all that has come before. It seems to come from a place beyond a personal or cultural identity as if there has always been and exists those who work on this threshold.

It draws upon memories of a time before form, a sense of self as a melody existing within a symphony of other melodies in a universe of light refracted as colours and sounds infinite in variation and all expressions of eternal love.

The light of this love tunnels into darkness, this is the love that sees and does not turn away. I have felt my work with others to be as a midwife delivering them and myself home.

“As we sung and played with the breath I had the imagination that we were playing to V.’s open heart and now were becoming enfolded by a giant heart that pulsed within and breathed through each of us. Each variation on the harp or shift in vocal texture added dimension to this heart, it was indeed an open system which reaches beyond the temporality of enclosure within skin and instead resonated with the larger form of the eternal now holding us in its embrace and delighting in this simplicity of musical form diversifying in all its potential complexities.”

  - Notes from a vigil

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