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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

Threshold comfort: Bedside singers provide audible kindness in difficult times

Dec 06, 2018 03:12AM ● By Melanie Wiseman

Top: Cindy Webb, Joyce Deem, Katherine Walter, Dan Terrell, Carol Moore. Bottom: Barbara Kennedy, Patricia Eble, Betty Rosenwald

Cindy Webb held her sister’s hand and sang softly to their mother who was dying.

“I was sending her off with a spirit of peace,” she said.

Webb, a social worker for HopeWest, frequently shares her calming voice with patients in song.

“When I sing from the heart to someone who is dying, I feel I’m projecting the meaning of the words,” she said. “You can see both the patient and the family relax. Singing softly and tenderly, I know I’m giving them a gift.”

Webb cultivates this kindness in her free time with the Grand Valley Threshold Singers, who provide gentle music and moments of grace and dignity in challenging times.

The local singers are part of Threshold Choir, an organization now with 150 chapters around the world. Founder Kate Munger of California planted the seed for this movement when she found courage singing at the bedside of a dying friend. It comforted her, which in turn, comforted him.

Webb witnessed this power of song when she sang with the Glenwood Springs choir to home hospice patients and new moms and babies. After moving to Grand Junction, she recruited fellow singer and social worker Joyce Deem to start a local chapter, which has been active for three years.

“This is such a fulfilling and special way of serving people in a vulnerable place,” said Deem.

Singers are not associated with HopeWest, but are currently singing to patients at HopeWest’s Care Center. Their desire to expand outreach means they are actively seeking new members.

Singers meet Monday evenings, alternating between practices and singing to patients. Songs are simple and short for repetition, which is conducive to rest and comfort.

“Songs are spiritual and not religious, intended to serve everyone,” said Webb.

They have about 25 songs in their repertoire, but they will take requests if they know the songs.

“When the family joins in, it’s a special shared experience,” said Deem. “It is so relaxing and therapeutic— the ultimate compliment is if the patient falls asleep.”

Singers split into smaller groups of two or three and spend an average of 10-15 minutes with each person.

Choir member Patricia Eble said it’s an honor to be included in someone’s life at this stage.

Renowned palliative care advocate Dr. Ira Byock said threshold choirs and their music is a soul-filling gift that complements medicine.

Singers of all abilities are welcome to join the local group. New members spend the first few months memorizing songs and learning to blend voices, bedside training and awareness.

For information, call Deem at 812-5434.