If you’ve been at the bedside of a loved one who’s dying, you know what a gift it is to be part of their journey.
My name is Joshua Denny-Keys. I’m a certified music therapist on the Palliative Care Unit at St. Paul’s Hospital. I have the privilege of bringing music – and comfort – to our patients during their end-of-life transition, sometimes even as they take their last breath.
With just my voice and guitar, I help ease pain, soften fears, and raise spirits. When visitors feel awkward or tongue-tied, my music holds space for them so they don’t have to be frightened or uncomfortable.
One of the doctors jokes with our patients saying, “Josh can make you feel better than I can!” He’s not necessarily wrong. There comes a point where medicine can only do so much. That’s where I come in.
A legacy of love
I remember one patient who was nearing the end of a long, brutal illness. Still, she beamed when I came to her room with my guitar. She’d sing along when I played her favourites from The Beatles, Coldplay, and John Denver. (Country Roads is probably my biggest request!)
The music carried her out of her hospital bed and back to happier times.
During one of our visits, I wondered if she’d like to record a couple of songs to leave behind for her husband and two teenaged children. She was hesitant at first, but with a bit of gentle coaxing, she happily agreed!
On the day of the recording, her husband arrived just as we were starting Here, There, and Everywhere by The Beatles. I invited him to join in and recorded the two of them singing this poignant song that includes the line: Knowing that love is to share, each one believing that love never dies. It was a powerful and emotional experience for us all!
Recently, her son reached out to me. He wanted me to know how much the recording means to him. He said I had given his mom a beautiful legacy and helped her to live on through song. It struck me: my music now takes him back to happier times, just as it did for his mom! What a profound gift!
The sound of compassion
Right now, music therapists across Providence are singing, and playing, and giving patients, residents, families, and friends the precious gifts of comfort, connection, and meaning during their time in our care – and beyond.
You can give that comfort, too. With a gift to Lights of Hope, you bring the healing power of music to life. I know because I live it every day. Thank you!
– By Joshua Denny-Keys, grateful music therapist