Su’s story - End of life & legacy work
Updated: Mar 16, 2022
Su was 50 years old with a diagnosis of advanced lung cancer. After a few weeks attending the Day Hospice and one session in the music therapy room, she came into Hospice on her usual day in a very low mood. She described herself as having “taken a nose-dive”, and was struggling with voices in her head telling her to end it all. She had been suffering anxiety before now, particularly at night, but she could now find no rest from these thoughts through the day and was feeling quite desperate.
In our music session, Su began to share her low mood and I invited her to throw all these unmanageable thoughts and feelings into a song. There was a song that was special to Su (Season’s in the Sun), so we used that as a template for the music chords. She began the first line and the rest flowed. We put the song together and recorded her singing it in this one session and she left with a CD of her own song in her hand and a smile on her face!
A fortnight later when we met again, SU greeted me with a huge smile and with ideas for more work we could do together.
She described the song writing process we had shared like this:
“It all happened so quickly, I didn’t even know what was happening. I don’t think you did either, did you? It just happened, and I came out feeling so different. I had got all those feelings out of me. I felt so much better and so proud that I had done that. It was a real turning point for me – I’ve felt so much better since then. On Tuesday I had some bad news that the disease has spread more and I haven’t got long, but I’ve been okay about that – it hasn’t knocked me down again. My sister and my friends all have a copy of my song and they all want to thank you for it.”
The value of this work for Su was not only finding a way to express difficult thoughts and feelings, but also to capture them in a way that they could then be shared with those close to her. It was a point of reconnection with herself that then enabled her to connect back with those she loved. It helped to meet the desire to know and be known.
Su came to the next session with words to a song that she had already chosen for her funeral - ‘Season’s in the Sun’. She had changed some words to make the song more personal to her and she was very clear that she wanted to sing and record this so that her friends and family could hear her voice at her funeral. She expressed that she wanted them to hear a personal goodbye from her and it offered her a sense of comfort that she was leaving them in her own way and was able to thank them for all they had been for her through her life’s journey. Su’s version of ‘Seasons in the Sun’ was played at her funeral and she sent me a special invitation as her music therapist to be the consistent witness to the process of her final journey. Through her recorded songs, Su was able to plan and experience a greater sense of control over her early passing.
“I need to tell you how much the time you spent with my sister in the music room at St.Gemma’s helped her so very much during the last few months of her life...
The music therapy sessions were such a gift - being able to hold the space for someone so they are able to turn around from the depths of despair, as my sister found herself in that day, to a person who was so proud of herself for recording two songs, one of which was her own version of a song that was to be played at her funeral - it was amazing.” (Su’s sister Pat)
Thoughts in my head just come from nowhere
Why is it happening to me?
Wish I could stop these thoughts and feelings
But they keep coming back to me
In my head
People have a lot of thoughts
Different kind of thoughts
I don’t like the thoughts that are with me
I don’t know how to get rid of these thoughts and feelings
Why oh why is this happening to me?
They’re so hard to bear, I don’t know how to sort it out
If I go to sleep they’ll stop
All I need is sleep..sleep..sleep..
(CHORUS) People have a lot of thoughts ...