Over the course of my career as a certified music therapist, I have worked in hospitals, privatevhomes, long-term care facilities, group homes and schools. I and my colleagues bear witness to many of life’s most profound moments. Years ago I began writing about some of the experiences I was having as a way of processing the events and the emotions. Names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of the people involved.
Elizabeth is in a wheelchair. She wears glasses and isn’t able to lift her head very high. She is always dressed sharply and has her hair combed. She has lived here for a few years now. I usually find her beside the small CD player in a corner by the clerk’s desk. It takes longer to converse with many of this population. Too long for most in this world of texting and Facetime.
I have time.
She is not on my list of 1/1 clients to see but I take a few minutes to chat to her on Mondays. This week Elizabeth told me she was having “a lot of sad feelings” and went on to tell me it had been five years since her daughter had died of cancer and five since her stepson had died of cancer. We chat softly about how present grief can feel, how it catches you by surprise even years later.
She says “you will never know what it means that you stop and talk to me every week. It means so much.” My eyes fill with tears and I tell her that kindness doesn’t cost anything and to stop making me cry.
We laugh together.
I find out later that Elizabeth and her husband volunteered often, hosting seniors at their home for meals and conversation. They were heavily involved in their church community and Elizabeth ran a day home for many years when their children were young. A personal friend of mine, who is connected to Elizabeth, has powerful memories of love and acceptance as a child in Elizabeth’s home.
I feel such gratitude for my time with Elizabeth and all of my clients. I am grateful for the music therapists who taught me the importance of patience and kindness in my practice.
Music therapists are welcomed into incredibly vulnerable spaces and we don’t take that for granted. I know I don’t.
– Sarah Van Peteghen, MTA