Everyone tried to do his or her part to comfort Katie. Some of the children applied lotion to her skin and doted on her, while Walker and her younger brother, Joe, sang and played guitar.

"Her eyes were open for much of that time. She hadn't spoken in a couple of days. But I'm certain she knew we were there," says Walker.

Walker remembers the last song she sang to her younger sister, about a half-hour before she passed away. It was a song she'd learned from a Kate Munger workshop. Munger is the founder of Threshold Choir, the group Walker in part modeled her own Voices Lifted after. Some of the other women in the workshop had sung it to Walker in the hopes of soothing her after learning that her sister's cancer had metastasized to other parts of her body. The song, originally titled "I'm Going to Lift My Mother Up," was modified, switching out "mother" for "sister."

Kholood Eid
Choir member Rebecca Riggs joined Voices Lifted after her son committed suicide.
Kholood Eid
Choir member Rebecca Riggs joined Voices Lifted after her son committed suicide.

Walker clears her throat and begins to sing in the coffee shop:

I'm gonna lift my sister up / She is not heavy

I'm gonna lift my sister up / She is not heavy

I'm gonna lift my sister up / She is not heavy

If I don't lift her up / If I don't lift her up

If I don't lift her up / I will fall down.

Her singing voice shows very little signs of the subtle raspy quality that it possesses when she speaks. And it's no longer as quiet. There is a steady strength to it, much smoother, and she sings higher notes with ease.

But she knew when to stop singing.

"I sort of felt like I needed to take my cues from her husband and kids and we needed to be quiet," Walker says. "I didn't want it to be the 'Kellie Singing Fest.' My sister loved music, so I know it was fine that I was singing to her and that she would've liked that, but as she got closer, I just sort of got quieter."

It isn't until she begins talking about her niece on the day Katie died that Walker loses composure, her voice quivering.

Walker's niece, then 17, had not been at her mother's bedside. Instead, she was in Costa Rica, unable to make it back in time. Her mother insisted she go on the trip because she'd been looking forward to it, and so she had to call home to bid her mother goodbye over the phone as a family member held it up to Katie's ear. Her daughter finally made it home later that day, only to find that she was too late. She immediately ran to her mother's bedroom and climbed into bed — the last place she'd seen her — and lay there, sobbing, with her aunt.

"It still smelled like her mom and everything," says Walker. "So I just crawled into bed with her and just told her how it was. We think Katie thought she was there. She didn't know I wasn't there when my mom died — my sister and I weren't able to get there in time. Sometimes it just happens that way."

Having musicians perform at hospices and other palliative care facilities isn't necessarily a new phenomenon, but it is a trend that's growing in popularity in recent years. More facilities in the Valley and across the country are incorporating music as a form of treatment, primarily for people suffering from different forms of dementia. Some staff members at hospices are testing a protocol known as individualized music, which some studies show can be effective in managing behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD) in such patients.

Maribeth Gallagher, the director of the dementia program at Hospice of the Valley, suggests music can transcend other forms of communication when trying to reach out to certain patients.

"Scientists think that when we hear music, it animates and organizes brain patterns," says Gallagher. "Think about your own life. Is there music that makes you think of your friends and family? Or spirituality? That's deeply rooted [within a person]."

Not all the people Voices Lifted visits are suffering from dementia; they say they've witnessed the effects music can have on any individual.

"It takes you to a place where you're in the arms of your young husband," says Gallagher. "It creates a virtual reality."

Voices Lifted has been visiting three of Hospice of the Valley's palliative care units for the past year, after having first approached them for an audition.

"We had them come in and sing for us. And they were wonderful," says Stacia Ortega, volunteer director for special programs. "When we heard them sing, we were like, 'Wow, this could be really beneficial.' It's like a gift for our patients."

Rotating shifts of three to five women at a time per visit, the choir has since been volunteering at Friendship Village, Lund Home, and Dobson Home. They also travel to nursing homes and personal bedsides, singing at least once a month somewhere, for someone in need.

And those people in need aren't always the ones with the illness.

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8 comments
Guest
Guest

Thank you for those who help others in need.

Allainnia
Allainnia

I would love to become a part of something like this, but I am not able to find any information regarding contacting "Voices Lifted". Please contact me at Allainnia@yahoo.comThanks,Alla

Dumoudan
Dumoudan

If the 12,000,000 plus illegal immigrants had a political leaning towards the conservative republicans would the pro illegal immigrants group still help with amnesty? I don't think so.

Deniseaz
Deniseaz

i am sitting here , not sure what to say ,, but really must not hold my voice still . i have another take on HOSPICE OF THE VALLY ,,, and the hell i PERSONALLY have had to endure . and yes , i can prove what i say ,,, heck , will open my personal HOSPICE OF THE VALLEY ,RECORD FILES for a $500.00 bill, ) at least i will get compensation some how . but even that 500.,00 would be small compared to that which i should be compensated for !!

i have been placed on HOSPICE OF THE VALLEY 2 TIMES ,,,,,, yes,, 2 TIMES ,,, shall not ever again even trust any hospice , and shall not ever forget , nor forgive ,

and my insurance, , yes, they too are in hot water over the stunt pulled by an insurance case manager ,, LAURA STIENWICH .... and not to go un left , is the Arizona State Ombudsman , no longer there , worker , RUDY ,M.

no i shall not ever forget that which was done, from tossing massive amounts of morphine to me , to the most basic abuse of human dignity , is when you find out that you have been a toy to be played ,, and not in the humane way either , nothing i can ever think of is worse than to have a case manager ,( Laura ,S.) place me on hospice, ,EVEN WHEN MY DR at that time was OUT OFT HE NATION !!!!!!! and there was no grounds for such action as that which Laura did ,

After Hospice of the valley found the mess up, and that i was placed with out Dr orders ,, the best thing Laura could say, was " well it happened , just live with it ," and get over it , it is water under the Bridge ,," ......... NO ONE EVER GETS OVER SOMETHING LIKE THIS < NOT EVER !!! she did not even apologize ,, nothing ,,

to this day , and till the time I DO finally depart , i shall loath both Hospice of the Valley ,and the case worker ....

and yes, i do have paperwork that will back it up , but at least i shall get a little comp back , soooo very little in comparison to the damage done .

Ordon234
Ordon234

It's really feel sad to lose some one we love, that's one the most saddest part of life but sometimes it feel better to know that many people loved and care for us even we know that we are going to die because of our illness. Dying is just part of life, so I guess cherish the life you have and the things that make you happy while you live and enjoy living.Monticello Hospice

Vacation Packages India
Vacation Packages India

In regards to stress, music can influence a person mentally and relax the mind in many ways. On the emotional level music can bring forth a cathartic experience

Deniseaz
Deniseaz

not even music shall ever clean over the damages done by Hospice of the valley ,,, not even close

 
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