Grace Note Singers
bedside singing at the end of life
The Founder’s Story by jodi l glass
Grace Note Singers - Most of the name came through Barbara Flinker Ruttenberg, an early member
The first actual “meeting” of this amazing bedside choir was called on March 21, 2013, which is not only the first day of spring, but held another meaning for me. The impetus for the idea for this group came to me in 2004, when my beloved Godmother, Thelma, had a devastating stroke on March 21, the first day of spring, a day she loved. I had just moved her to RI from Washington Heights, 6 weeks earlier. While Thelma was in rehab in Hallworth House I met an incredible chaplain from hospice. Though I thought I knew of the work of hospice, I never had direct contact before. This chaplain respected that Thelma wanted nothing to do with them. The chaplain and I continued to meet and I learned so very much about living with hospice. She gave me just the right amount of literature, particularly, helpful stories I would tell Thelma. I believed she was quietly preparing for a journey and I would be there to help her over, as she was with me from the moment I was born.
I was raised with music. There was never a time in my life without music. My Mom, my “other self” as we called each other, was a singer and pianist. So why should there not be music now, at this time of life, at this important stage in our journey? This chaplain began the discussion with me about the age-old tradition of singing at this time of life, as someone is passing, what I came to learn as music-thanatology.
Thelma passed on June 5th, 2004, just as summer was approaching. The music at her service was extraordinary, sung acapella by our friend, Rose Weaver. It took me a while to do what I thought was healing from this loss and then I did what I love to do; I began to network to see if there were any choruses around who sang for folks as they were passing and I came across the Threshold Choir, founded by Kate Munger (their first meeting was held on March 21, 2000) and I thought/felt I was home!
As I learned in the hospice movement, there is not one hard and fast rule as to the best time for one to become a volunteer following a loss; rather, it depends on where one is in one’s grief process. For me, much happened following Thelma’s passing, including: an unexpected move; my 84 year old Dad, who was never sick a day in his life, suffered a serious illness; and a crisis for my Mom in 2008. I share all of this as I feel it is very much a part of the long and winding road to the first chords of GNS. My Mom passed 11/3/11. In August of 2012, I met Kate Munger at a workshop. My Dad, my hero, passed 11/6/12.
When I came up for some air, I called the first, very small meeting of what was to become Grace Note Singers, in my living room, on March 21, 2013.
It’s been an interesting, unusual time. For me, always music, always sisterhood on this journey.
With love, gratitude and respect-
jodi l glass