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Joyce’s story - Addressing the past to prepare for death

Updated: Mar 16, 2022

Joyce came to day-hospice one day a week for some respite care for 6 months before she passed away in the hospice inpatient unit. The first day she walked into the day-care unit she was invited to join the music therapy group and she agreed with enthusiasm. She came into the music room, looked at the instruments and said, “Well, this is amazing! I am 84 years old and I have been wanting to play the bongo’s all my life!” This began a number of group sessions and then individual music therapy sessions where Joyce was invited to write a song.

I have worked with many clients at the end of their lives over the years, and the invitation to write a song always invites a unique response and opens the door to a unique process. My job as music therapist is to work with each individual to create a song that holds the fullest expression possible of themselves. An important part of this process is to continually offer their song back to them, so that it is them managing and shaping it and so that they experience control at a time when very little feels in their control.

Joyce came into the music room with a song ready to sound into the world. During our sessions leading to this moment she had shared that she remained for a long time in a ‘loveless marriage’. She had felt stifled for many years and she chose to use the music therapy sessions to process her experience of being silenced. So it was a complete surprise to me that when we began to work on a song, Joyce already had many words and they were very romantic and tender. This first song “Just a Heartbeat” was written and recorded over just 2 sessions and Joyce was thrilled! She wanted to share her song with everyone! 

I finally asked her if she minded me asking who the song was about? She gave me a vivid description of one night at the Dance Hall where she met and danced with a man of her dreams. The next day he went to war and never returned. She said that it may have been 60 years since then, but she had been writing these songs in her head and keeping them there all this time.

Joyce wrote 3 songs over our time together, and she happily recorded them and worked on her vocals to add some improvisation parts like her hero, Ella Fitzgerald. 

She described it this way: “All these songs were locked up inside of me for so long and I never dreamed I would find someone who could help me get them out. My daughter couldn’t believe it.

Thank you so much!”


Since we met life has been so good to me

Just knowing you, you make all my dreams come true

The sun always seems to shine

If you would say you’re mine

I’d be so complete

My love for you is just a heartbeat away.


Love love

Your love is so dear to me

Love love

What did I do before you appeared to me?

I’ve loved you from the moment we first met

I can’t believe you feel the same about me

This is what my dreams have been all about

Your love is so sweet

My love for you is just a heartbeat away

(CHORUS) Love love

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