boy playing flute
Music Is Hope

A Meeting in Music

Finding Hope in a Hospital Room

Edith was a member of the neighborhood church. She had suffered a massive stroke and was taken to the hospital. She could neither speak nor move.

Right away I sensed in the room an energy overload. Several of her friends were present, all trying to talk to Edith and to each other. But Edith was frail and weak and had no way to respond. I felt this energy mismatch as a tension in my body, like glass breaking from too much force. Edith was being overwhelmed. We needed to match her at her own energy level, so that by feeling the resonance between us she could know she was not alone.

Music is a less intrusive, more delicate way of reaching someone who is frail. It’s like pouring water into a cup; there is no forcing. I sang to Edith some hymns from her church. She just barely moved her head to let me know she heard and was touched.

I will let two of the visitors describe in their own words what happened.


I really didn’t know what was going to happen when we went to visit Edith today. All I knew was, we were supposed to go in and sing her Happy Birthday. When we got there, I thought the natural thing to do was to do it, so I pulled out the guitar and Joan and I sang. Then I sang and hummed a little of “This Little Light of Mine,” but you said she needed a softer energy. You took the guitar and I got the intuition simply to settle back and watch/learn. You went to her and spoke, and then you sang her “God of the Sparrow.” It was either after that song, or maybe after the second one, I don’t remember, I think after the second one when the monitors stopped beeping, and something else happened too. The entire room settled down, became very quiet, palpably calm. There was no more motion. There was absolutely nothing for anyone to do but be present in that moment.

I know my state changed from one of sort of paying attention to you and what you were doing, to one of prayer, being with, being part of what was occurring. And then Joan reached out and took my hand, and then at another moment she was crying, and I just put my arm around her and held her.... At one point Joan grabbed me to tell me that Edith had opened her eyes. Joan told me later that everybody was able to be with Edith, because you led them to her. My sense as things moved toward their conclusion was this very quiet, very deep assurance that it was very good for all of us to be exactly where we were. That quiet assurance filled the room.

Personally, around the edges of all that, I was struck by the strength/gentleness of your voice, especially in those higher registers. Those same qualities were there from the moment you approached her. I think for me, and maybe for others much more so, it was a point of rest; there was nothing for us to do but be present, and so we did that. It was also striking for me to hear you say the words from Romans (8:38-39), and the “our Lord Jesus Christ,” and I know she heard them as absolute truth. I later thought about your article, in which you say that the real way into covenant relationship with God is to commit to a life of non-self-interested love. Well, you were doing that this afternoon. I want to do it too. As Joan said at lunch today, “I want more than anything, at this point in my life, to be useful.” And she meant it in just that way, available to God for whatever work, in whatever moments.

I am very, very grateful to have witnessed your work today. I saw your strength, and your assurance, and your love.


It was a bittersweet day in the life of Edith. She was celebrating her 100th birthday in a hospital bed. She had suffered a severe stroke that left her speechless. She could, however, understand everything that was said to her. Her mind was not affected by this tragedy.

Several of her friends gathered around her bedside on this day. Charles stepped forward with his guitar in hand. “There’s too much stimulation in this room,” he said to no one in particular. I became quiet immediately, as did the others. As Charles gently took Edith’s hand, he said “I’m Charles. We met before. I’m going to sing you a song.” Edith did not respond.

The guitar music was soft but the words were powerful!! It was about prayer and Jesus. Charles was completely focused and clear in what he was about. I started to sense a feeling of awe in the room: a gentle peace overcame me. I held on to Karen. . . we all began to quietly sob. Edith opened her eyes and looked directly at Charles. “Would you like me to continue?” he asked. She nodded, “yes.”

Charles played several songs: Amazing Grace was the last. Edith was with us and also in her place with the Lord. Her breathing was deep and labored at times. But she was at peace.

Through his music Charles was able to help me complete the most difficult task of trying to communicate with meaning to someone so very important to me. It seemed Edith was also able to release her physical energy to meet with our Lord. I was at peace. . . it was OK. I was in touch with my Creator and knew Edith was also.

It was good!!!!