"When I looked, I'd realized he recorded over the entire thing and I knew my mother was about to die," says Walker. "We have maybe three or four seconds of the end of it. And I cried more for that than I did probably anything else — more than when my mom died. "

Ben's first memories are of his grandfather dying — and singing lullabies to comfort him.

"I kind of just remember being in a room and singing different songs I'd either heard or knew in some way from my mom," Ben says. "And I was just singing along as best I could. I think I had just turned 2, so I was pretty young."

Kellie Walker and her husband, Russell LoBrutto, at the couple's Tempe home.
Kholood Eid
Kellie Walker and her husband, Russell LoBrutto, at the couple's Tempe home.

Walker originally expressed doubts that her son could remember an experience like that at such a young age. But his accounts of the evening too closely matched her own to be a coincidence.

"And that's the first thing my son remembers. He remembers singing to my dad. And three years ago my younger sister died of breast cancer. My husband has cancer now, too," says Walker. "It's sort of ironic that I do this work."


Some members of Voice Lifted, like Rebecca Riggs, find solace in singing to others approaching death. But Riggs, who's known Walker since she joined the church 20 years ago, did not join the group at its start.

It wasn't until Riggs found herself needing her own personal form of healing that she turned to the group.

"My 17-year-old son died. And when he died, he was alone," says Riggs. "And of the many, many overwhelming feelings I had upon his death, one of the things that stayed with me was the incredible regret that he died alone. And I don't want anybody to die alone."

Riggs' son committed suicide. After recuperating, she joined Voices Lifted about a year and a half ago.

"There was nothing I could do for him, so I joined the group after I sort of regrouped, so I could be part of being there in some way — in this sense, a musical way — for people who are at the end of life. And that, for my own personal story, was important to me," says Riggs. "People really appreciate it, if not the people themselves, then often the family members. They feel that the music brings a sense of peace and I think that's what we're all after . . . And that's what families and individuals in that last stage of life often need."

Riggs continues: "The rewards are worth it — that's why we keep doing it. Is it draining? Absolutely. You can really feel exhausted in a way that is entirely different from having exercised a lot. It's emotionally draining sometimes. But it's still — every single time — it's been worth it."


One year ago, Russell LoBrutto was diagnosed with stomach cancer. In December, he had his stomach removed.

LoBrutto, a biophysicist, also has Parkinson's disease, which forced him to retire from Arizona State University in 2007 after 16 years at the school.

These days, he spends his time at home reading literature on his condition, hoping he can someday be given the resources and platform to expand his research on Parkinson's. But for now, he stays home, while his wife travels back and forth between music conferences around the country, leading all music-related activities at her church, and tending to Voices Lifted. And since the cancer has spread, Walker and her husband have been taking more trips than ever before to the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale for chemotherapy.

"It's been a busy year," says LoBrutto.

On a recent summer day, LoBrutto quietly drifts from room to room in the family's Tempe ranch home, the rattling sound of pills in a bottle his introduction into the room. Kellie sits at the kitchen table, discussing her musical past. LoBrutto walks to the refrigerator, opens the door and carefully studies the contents before closing it, empty-handed, and making his way back to the computer across the family room.

The house still shows the signs of a busy family: decorations celebrating Jolie's 14th birthday, an office stacked with towers of boxes, mostly filled with papers. A small wooden piano is tucked away, off to the side and in between shelves and more papers. A painting of Walker's father hangs above it.

LoBrutto's thin frame shows the signs of a person battling cancer. He talks the way you'd imagine a biophysicist would talk.

Music was a shared interest between Walker and LoBrutto when they met, but to this day, their preferences vary. A lot.

"There's a funny thing. Our music is fairly different," he says.

For example, "She would never put on this music on purpose," he says, referring to the CD Frankly a Cappella — The Persuasions Sing Zappa, playing in the background. "But she tolerates it. I listen to a lot of different types of music. I'm one of the few people I know who likes Captain Beefheart."

Brought up Catholic, LoBrutto rarely, if ever, hears his wife sing at church.

"I'm not very fond of church music. I'm not a church-going person," LoBrutto says. But he's been listening to Walker sing since they first started dating, many years ago.

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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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