The Power and Significance of Music

I have talked many times at workshops, in topic groups, at topic tables, and among friends about the power and significance of music. This past summer I experienced it in a vivid and personal way.

In August my father, Eldon, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I was visiting him in my hometown in New Brunswick, Canada, at that time and decided to stay for the next several weeks. (I live in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.)

I knew how much my dad loved music, so I rented a cello at the local music store. The first time I played in the hospital, my dad was moved and transformed. He was dealing with pain and feeling scared, and the music lifted him and allowed him to shed a few tears. It was his first “session” about all that was going on [happening]. I also remember him lying on his back and exclaiming with joy, with his hands outstretched, as he put his attention on the benign reality of music.

The cello music became a daily ritual and request. It was powerful for my dad and impacted other members of our family and the caregivers, too.

After about two weeks, my dad came home from the hospital, and the cello music continued as an important part of his day and our relationship. He loved the cello-playing during his nap or before bed. Sometimes the family would gather in the living room for the music, and sometimes just my dad.

It was probably the most important “performance” of my life. The music allowed my dad to rest deeply and peacefully—a welcome break from the ravages of the cancer. It also allowed him to discharge, as almost nothing else would, and express his love and appreciation for his family and the other people in his life.

I returned to Vancouver for work in early September, and soon after Eldon was admitted back into hospital under palliative care. I travelled back to New Brunswick and was there for the last few days of his life. He was on heavy pain medication and was not responsive. I rented the cello again, and the day before my dad died I played Bach, some hymns (he had been a minister for the United Church in Canada), and other music that I knew he loved. When I began to play, his hands started to rise and conduct the music.

On the morning of his last breaths, we were singing with the cello “Morning Has Broken” and “Dona Nobis Pacem.” It was a powerful way to be with him and to say goodbye at the end of his life.

I would love to hear from others of you how you’ve used (or experienced) your music or other art in powerful ways. It is good to notice the significance of what we create!

Heather Hay

International Liberation Reference Person for Musicians

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Reprinted from the RC e-mail discussion listfor leaders of artists

(Present Time 191, April 2018)

Last modified: 2018-07-29 12:16:36+00