I often attend meetings at the Cottage in the Meadow. During those meetings, participants around the table discuss the “business” of end of life. I am amazed at the contrast between the objective, behind-the-scenes details that take place on one end of this facility; while on the other end of the building are 12 families and hospice staff walking with and lovingly caring for patients during the last stage of their lives.
The other day, I walked out of a meeting and heard music coming from the big, Cottage living room. As I entered the beautiful living space, I was struck by the picture before me: one woman was playing the recently donated piano, and three women walked between the piano and their mother, who, unresponsive, was lying in her bed. Her bed had been wheeled into the living room and next to the piano. These women were singing in three-part harmony every old gospel song they could remember. As they sang song after song, staff members began to gather in the living room to listen. Eventually, the women ran out of songs and asked if we could come up with an old hymnal. One phone call to a local church, and a large-print hymnal was donated within the hour so the family could continue playing and singing. The family was extremely respectful and wanted to care for their mother and be sure that they weren’t offending anyone who might not care for that particular type of music. From time to time, they stopped and their mom’s bed was pushed back into her room in order to honor the other families that would like to spend time in the living room without the music.
Then they returned and played again.
It was a beautiful experience.