Thanks to Bruce Atchison for inspiring this. I wasn’t always a writer. For fifteen years, I was a registered music therapist working in a nursing home and volunteering at other facilities in Sheridan, Wyoming, that served senior citizens. I played the piano or guitar and sang and conducted such activities as name that tune and musical bingo. I worked one on one with residents in their rooms when they couldn’t or wouldn’t attend group activities. I even held a woman’s hand and sang to her before she died and was often asked to sing at residents’ funerals.
Now that I write full time, I wonder if I should have pursued a career in writing instead of music therapy, but did I waste fifteen years? No, the nursing home where I worked had little resources for music activities. There were weekly church services with music, the occasional performer who entertained during socials, high school choirs and other groups who came during the holidays; that was it. If not for me, music would not have been an integral part of these residents’ lives. This may sound like I’m bragging, but I still run into family members who tell me how much my music meant to their loved ones in the nursing home and inquire if I still work there. It’s nice to know that for fifteen years, what I did touched other lives.
If not for my experience in a nursing home, I would have been totally lost when my husband Bill suffered his first stroke and was sent to the same facility where I worked. Of course it was still overwhelming, but I was familiar with people there and knew what to expect. People knew and respected me which played a crucial role in getting Bill home where I could care for him.
I think my music therapy experience helped the most at the end of Bill’s life. Once I got over the initial shock after signing the end of life care paperwork, I knew just what to do. I played my guitar and sang his favorite songs then held his hand and sang some more. When he appeared to be resting comfortably, I pulled out my netbook and started writing his obituary. This isn’t something music therapists do for dying patients, but Bill was my husband. He liked to have events such as weddings and funerals organized in advance. He was pretty much out of it, but I think he was somewhat aware of what I was doing. Once I started writing the obituary, he knew I had the situation under control and felt he could leave this world.
As the anniversary of his death, October 30th, approaches, I look back on my life and have no regrets. Maybe I should have started writing earlier, but it really doesn’t matter. I’m glad things turned out the way they did.