MUSIC THANATOLOGIST PLAYS HARP FOR THE DYING

MUSIC THANATOLOGIST PLAYS HARP FOR THE DYING

The Abode Home is a unique place where terminally ill patients are embraced and taken care of. It’s not a hospice, says the brochure, “but rather a home with a simple, welcoming, peaceful ambience for guests entering the last three months of life.”

The sprawling house is indeed peaceful, almost serene, as caregivers and volunteers go about their work with dedication and compassion. The reason I am visiting on this particular day is to witness a vigil by music thanatologist Deborah Marshall, the only such professional in the entire state of Texas. Joined by Abode’s director, Martha Jo Atkins, the two of us tiptoe into a room where Carla, a lung cancer patient, is lying in bed in a rather agitated state, with her grieving father watching tenderly over her. Marshall sets up her portable harp, introduces herself to Carla, who is not fully conscious, and after a few quiet moments, starts plucking the strings with a gentle touch. It takes a little while, but Carla eventually relaxes and her nervous movements subside. “It’s magical,” whispers Atkins. The sound of the harp in the darkened room ends up casting a spell over all of us. Continue reading