On the Threshold

October 31, 2013

When my dad was dying, my whole family gathered around his bedside on an island in Florida. With the Bay lapping the shore and the osprey yelling their sharp cries, we did what we always did at family gatherings. We sang. We sang all of Dad’s favorite songs that he had taught us on long rides down from St. Louis to Florida with five little girls and two grown ups packed into a station wagon for 20 hours. My dad’s songs were all a little off kilter. Songs like “Johnny Verbeck’s Machine” about dogs and cats being ground to sausages, and “Break the News to Mother” about a boy dying in war. We sang “St. James Infirmary” in as bluesy of a voice as we each could muster. As we sang, my dad, in his morphine induced state hummed/moaned along with his eyes closed. We knew we were reaching him, somehow, somewhere, on a deeper level than met the eye.

Years later, when my mom died, we were there again, at home by her bedside, this time singing the songs she loved. My mom was much more traditional, and we broke open the Methodist hymnal and sang until we couldn’t sing anymore. And again, music made it seem a little easier. We were together, we were doing something we knew she loved.

Recently, a friend asked me if I might be interested in directing a Threshold Choir. She has been a part of the New York chapter for 12 years, and wanted to bring it with her up north to the Hudson Valley. I thought of those amazing memories of singing my mom and dad and immediately said yes.

What I have learned about The Threshold Choir since that time has truly inspired me. Because although we are training ourselves to sing at the bedside of those who are seriously ill or dying, we are also singing for ourselves. We had our first “rehearsal” last month and we sang and harmonized and meditated and talked about how we feel about sickness and death, and we left the practice feeling just a little softer, a little more present, and very deeply connected to the women who we may have just met that night.

We are having our second practice on November 24th, 2013 at 5PM, at my home in Garrison, NY. Please call  or email for address and more information. 914-420-4515

According to the national website, the general guidelines for someone who wants to join with the intent
of singing at bedsides are:

We ask that you
(1) be able to carry a tune,
(2) be able to hold your own part (or sincerely want to learn to) while others sing harmony,
(3) be able to sing softly and blend your voice with others (or sincerely want to learn),
(4) be able to communicate kindness with your voice, and
(5) be willing to use self-monitoring and accept peer feedback as we work together to bring the sweetest, most blended, and graceful sound to our precious clients.

If you feel called to do this strictly volunteer work, we hope you will join us. 


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