“Thank You for the Music”: A Testimonial for the Emily’s House / PAC Music Therapy Program
Written by Lindsey, Emily’s Mom

She is only 25 years old, but our middle child’s once very vibrant life has grown significantly quieter these days. The disease with which she was abruptly diagnosed at age 10 has progressed to the point of requiring her to receive palliative care. The symptoms are synonymous with those of MS, ALS and Dementia combined. No longer able to talk, walk, or do anything to help or look after herself, she lives at home. In a hospital bed. Requiring 24/7 care. Her once exciting and whirlwind overseas life as a vital part of a diplomatic family has been whittled down to a standstill.

Almost.

Enter every alternate Wednesday morning. It is almost 10 o’clock, and the rigorous routine of the early hours is just about complete. Emily is ready. She is bursting with anticipation. She knows. It’s “Music Therapy” day!

No matter the season, she hears the familiar hum of a certain SUV making its way up the driveway. She waits for the brake, followed by the opening and closing of the driver’s door. Excitement builds as she distinguishes the footsteps making their way to the front door, then the gentle knocking. How she wishes she could be the one to open the door, to be the first to extend an effusive welcome. But a thrill ripples through her when she hears that voice: the voice of her beloved Music Therapist, stepping into our foyer entrance!

You see, whether or not the sun has yet made itself visible that morning through all the many windows that surround Emily, the entrance of Hannah into our home is without exception the arrival of sunrise itself. She shines! She finds her place at the bedside, effusive in her initial conversation with Emily, consciously assessing what kind of music may be especially effective as an opener. Making good eye contact, she then seats herself close by, and cradling her guitar in her arms, opens her mouth and begins to SING. I mean, SING!! Have you ever heard her incredible voice?!

Sunshine begets sunshine. Hannah sings, with infectious passion, and Emily sparkles. For one whole hour, Emily is lifted out of the world of palliative care. The combination of singer and songs grants her wings; and enables her to soar above it all, in that little pocket of time.

There are several factors that contribute to this powerful impact. Hannah and Emily are not only virtually peers, they have developed a deep understanding, and have in so many ways creatively discovered that they are on the same page. They share a deep connection. Hannah has recognized that within the many confines of Emily’s body and the disease which has been ravaging it for more than half her life, there is still a vibrant spirit there, within, which can be called to life, brought to the surface. Her presence, so astonishingly intuitive and exceptionally talented, as well as the amazing selection of songs that rise from deep inside her, weave together to tap into Emily’s very soul, transcending the enormous struggles of her experience and literally enabling her to manoeuvre through the rest of her day with such a much lighter heart.

This tremendous gift of Music Therapy, which Emily’s House so generously dispenses to our daughter every other week, makes all the difference in the world! I never fail to have many tears streaming from my own eyes during that hour…”

Music Therapy at Emily’s House children’s hospice / the Philips Aziz Centre for Hospice Care (PAC) creates a safe space for children and families to express themselves as Music Therapy holistically meets people “where they are at,” and provides comfort, support, and enhances quality of life. Music Therapy supports respite children at Emily’s House; palliative children and families journeying at end-of-life; as well as, children and adults in the community. Children have individual and group Music Therapy sessions at Emily’s House. Group sessions allow for socialization, awareness of others, and connecting through singing, listening to music, and playing instruments together. The children “lead” these sessions, through their breathing, movements, playing, and being empowered to make the music their own. Music Therapy supports individual children having difficulties settling, needing pain management, as well as with creative expression. The program also allows families to create memories in music: legacy work through song writing and recording. For Celebrations of Life, families participate in song selection and creating a personally meaningful experience. Through holistic care, Music Therapy meets physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual and social needs.

Special thanks to The Lillian Meighen and Don Wright Foundation for their leadership funding support for the Emily’s House / PAC Music Therapy program.

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