Discover the power of music in end-of-life care, as Linda Bryce shares heartwarming stories of how songs have brought comfort to patients and staff. But what exactly makes music such an effective tool to ease the journey from life to death? Listen to find out.
Music is vibration, right? Sound vibrations. Aren’t we vibration, too? So vibrations affect us, and vibrations that are synchronous are beneficial and those that clash are not. – Linda Bryce
Linda Bryce is an end-of-life care expert with a special focus on the healing power of music. Drawing from her experience with a Threshold Choir, Linda has sat by hundreds of bedsides, offering the comforting and consoling gift of song to patients and their families. With a background in teaching, Linda has also authored the award-winning book, The Courage to Care: Being Fully Present with the Dying, which emphasizes the transformative potential of music during difficult moments in life. Her passion for caring and connecting with those facing life’s most critical transitions has made her an invaluable resource to caregivers and loved ones alike.
In this episode, you will be able to:
- Uncover the connection between music and end-of-life care, highlighting the profound comfort it can provide during difficult times.
- Get a fascinating look at Threshold Choir’s mission to offer solace through song to those in need, impacting lives one melody at a time.
- Examine the proven healing effects of music on grief and explore how it supports individuals facing immense emotional challenges.
- Learn the significance of maintaining presence when comforting others, and how it deepens your connections.
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00:00:00 – Gloria Grace Rand
You’re listening to the Live Love Engage podcast on today’s show, the importance of music for living and dying. Stay tuned.
00:00:14 – Gloria Grace Rand
I am Gloria Grace Rand, founder of The Love Method and author of the number one Amazon bestseller, Live Love Engage How to Stop Doubting Yourself and Start Being Yourself. In this podcast, we share practical advice from a spiritual perspective on how to live fully, love deeply, and engage authentically so you can create a life and business with more impact, influence, and income. Welcome to live. Love Engage.
00:00:49 – Gloria Grace Rand
Namaste. I am Gloria Grace Rand, and I am delighted to be with you today and to have a guest with us on the show. Always one of my favorite days when we are able to do interviews with wonderful, interesting people. And I met the lovely Linda Bryce here a little while ago, and I’m going to tell you all about her in a moment. But first, I want to welcome Linda to Live Love Engage.
00:01:17 – Linda Bryce
Hello, everyone. I celebrate each of you. I greet you with an open and a joyful heart. Hello, everyone. I celebrate each of you. I greet you with a joyful heart. And that’s for all of you listening. And for you, Gloria.
00:01:35 – Gloria Grace Rand
Well, thank you so much. And if you couldn’t tell, Linda is always singing. This is part of what she does, and that was what we really connected on. So let me tell you what she does. She leads a Threshold Choir and has sat at hundreds of bedsides singing, and we’re going to talk more about that in a minute. She’s also an award-winning author of The Courage to Care – Being Fully Present with the Dying, and she’s a former teacher, and she also has a children’s book called We’re Never Far Apart, which follows the grief journey of a young girl whose best friend dies. When we met, I just thought it was so very cool that you do this work where you are part of sort of a hospice type of setting and that you wind up sitting at bedsides of folks who are either ill or possibly dying. And you can correct me on that and that you sing to them and there’s this amazing healing energy with song. So I want to know more about that. Well, actually, why don’t you tell us a little bit about that and then we’ll go back in and talk about how you got into doing this type of work. So explain to our audience a little bit more about what is a Threshold Choir and what do you do?
00:03:07 – Linda Bryce
Okay, starting from there. Women in ancient times sang at bedsides, right? Women were the caretakers from birth through life, through illness, through dying, after death. And part of that was singing acapella when individuals were ill and when they were dying. There is a saying, it’s attributed to anonymous, so I don’t know from where it comes or for how long it’s been around, but it’s, For words and depths, for heights and depths no words can reach. Music is the soul’s own speech. Music the speech of our souls. Perhaps that’s why music has such a profound influence on our bodies, on our minds, on our spirits. About 22 years ago, and this now, I’m going to the modern or the more recent singing at bedsides. About 22 years ago, a woman named Kate was sitting in a hospital at the bedside of her friend who was dying, and her natural impulse was to begin singing. She had a song, she sang it. She sang that song over and over and over. His restlessness diminished and stopped. He quieted down. He seemed more at peace than he had been. She thought about this and the response, you know, that physically she could see in front of her eyes and she said, “Why don’t we do this? Why doesn’t everybody do this at the bedside?” So she initiated something called the Threshold Choir. And for your listeners, who would like more information, it’s Threshold Choir. All one word. Thresholdchoir.org. It was begun in California. There are now more than 200, 250 chapters across the country and in other parts of the world in the United States, most of the chapters are still sort of to the west, where it began. I’m out here in the east. But there was a woman who lived locally who would spend her winters in California, was introduced to Threshold Choir, brought the idea and the practice back here. And when I returned from sitting at the bedside of my dear aunt, I had driven from the middle of Pennsylvania up to Maine to be with her. I didn’t ask, I just showed up, because I love that aunt and I’m very close, was with her and with those cousins. When I came home, there was an ad in the paper and it was looking for yes, I know, right. Divine placement.
00:06:13 – Gloria Grace Rand
00:06:16 – Linda Bryce
Looking for singers, for a newly forming Threshold Choir to sing to individuals at the thresholds of life. That’s how I came to it. And I must say that without knowing about bedside singing, it was also my natural impulse. The night that Aunt Lee was very nearing death, to just after prayers and after reading scripture from her Bible and so forth, to just begin singing. We don’t go as a big group. You think of the word choir like, oh, we’re going to have 20 voices coming to the bedside. No! One doesn’t want to do that. And the person in the bed doesn’t want to be overwhelmed with all of those people and that sound either. We typically sing in pairs, on occasion, trios, but that’s so we can have harmony and that’s, that’s what it is. We go where we are invited. Our gift, our song is our gift.
00:07:21 – Gloria Grace Rand
It is amazing, the power of music. And I was bringing to mind I had seen a LinkedIn post of someone I’m connected with, and he was talking about his father, I think, has Alzheimer’s. And so, for whatever reason, all of a sudden, I don’t know that he was singing, but I think he decided to put on, like, old Motown songs. And they started going through all of these, and he was just so amazed at the difference it made in his dad and just how he sort of came alive again hearing these old songs. But do you know any? Can you speak to maybe more about the power of music in that way and how it really seems to what is the expression, music soothes the savage beast. But I think it also soothes us as well. Right?
00:08:19 – Linda Bryce
It does. I was listening to a TEDx Talk and I don’t recall the gentleman who gave it, but who made the comment that music lights up more parts of our brain than absolutely anything else we experience. And I have heard and written about in my book, The Courage to Care as well about the effect of music on individuals. And yes, it’s being used with individuals who have dementia. Alzheimer’s is one type of dementia and I’ve even seen it, that individuals who have just stopped talking, they aren’t talking anymore. But you either put a headset on them or you begin to play music that’s generational, from their earlier years or something that’s in their brain, that’s from their experience. Yes, it’s like music wakes them up and they begin singing along, maybe even tapping their toes or nodding their heads and for some of them even are able to then engage in some short conversations. There is an organization; here’s, another resource for folks, because I love offering resources – Alive Inside. If you haven’t seen the music, it is all about this, especially music and its effect on individuals with dementia. Music has also been helpful for stroke victims. That’s been discovered. There’s just so much I have a whole page full of benefits, of physical benefits, emotional benefits, mental benefits in the book, just there’s been so much research and observation and study about the profound effect and influence that music can have on us stroke victims. They discovered that for some stroke victims, when they sing what they want to say, they can sing it and say it even though they can’t speak it.
00:10:35 – Gloria Grace Rand
And that makes sense too, because I know that people who stutter, like Mel Tillis, the famous country, I don’t know if he’s country western singer, but I know country singer, but he stuttered when he spoke and he would give interviews and things, but when he sang, the stutter was gone. And so it is interesting. I wonder, do you know and if you don’t, it’s okay. But I’m wondering is there a difference between just hearing like a melody as opposed to hearing a melody with words? If you’ve read anything about that, if there is a difference in actual songs versus just hearing melody lines and how the brain reacts.
00:11:16 – Linda Bryce
instrumental music works just as well.
00:11:21 – Gloria Grace Rand
00:11:23 – Linda Bryce
I read a book a few months ago that I hadn’t discovered when I was writing my book. So I have, like, 75 recommended readings in the appendix. I’ve read all of them and then some. But this one was a gentleman who had some very serious, life-threatening episode, was taken to the hospital. This was in New York City. Should not have lived. I mean, he talks about the… but when he did and what brought him out of it was his wife began playing Bach. What he does now, he’s a guitarist, he has, because he’s obviously well, obviously, I’m now telling you, he survived.
00:12:09 – Gloria Grace Rand
00:12:12 – Linda Bryce
He has gone back to that hospital. I don’t know if today he’s still doing it. But at the time of writing his book, he was, and he plays for people in ICU, which is where he was, and it’s only instrumental music. And for him in the ICU, critical care, right? You have the added dimension of, he’s watching the monitors. And if the monitors are going down, and they’re supposed to go down, he knows that that music is doing good by that patient. But if the monitors are going up and they’re not supposed to be going up, then he knows he needs to change what he’s playing. So music is vibration, right? Sound vibrations. Aren’t we vibration, too?
00:13:07 – Gloria Grace Rand
Yes, we are.
00:13:09 – Linda Bryce
So vibrations affect us, and vibrations that are synchronous are beneficial and those that clash are not.
Gloria Grace Rand
We know that when we meet someone right off, right off, you know whether and in my language, and I suspect in yours, too, either your energy or your vibration picks up and says, okay, yes, this is going to be a good connection. This will be an easy connection. Or don’t think so. Great meeting you. See again later.
00:13:51 – Gloria Grace Rand
Exactly. Yeah, it is interesting. And you’re right. Thank you for pointing that out, reminding me that we are all vibration. And so our brains are moving. Brainwaves are oscillating at different rates. And so if we can, that’s why they have, like, entrainment software and things like that that are out there. So if you have music that can work to be able to connect with those parts of the brain too, it’s amazing. And I’ve always loved music. I’ve sung since I was a little kid. My mom used to sing to me, and my favorite part of going to Girl Scout camp, frankly, was singing or sitting around the campfire singing. And it’s a wonderful way to communicate, especially if you get certain songs and they have lyrics that really connect with you. And songs can trigger memories from years back. I mean, I still will hear when I hear the song The Rose, I’m Back in high school.
00:14:54 – Linda Bryce
00:14:55 – Gloria Grace Rand
I’m back in high school dancing with this guy that I had a crush on. So it’s so cool. But let’s get back to really, what you’re doing with the Threshold Choir.
00:15:12 – Linda Bryce
If I might jump in. Excuse me, Gloria.
00:15:15 – Gloria Grace Rand
No, go ahead.
00:15:16 – Linda Bryce
I can pick up on that as well. Music takes us back, and it makes us feel the way we want to feel. Another way to use music in life and at the bedside is, it is an easier entry into having harder conversations. So, for example, and you mentioned memories. A couple of months ago, I gave a presentation on end-of-life spirituality to a regional conference in upstate New York, and I used music to illustrate. Throughout life, some of us regularly review our life, if you will, and we say, okay, this has been good. Where am I going? Where do I want to go? Where am I being led to go? But when we get to the end of life and for me, that’s a broad designation at this point that the years in front of us are much fewer than the years behind us. That includes me, right? You start looking back, and you can use, how do I say this? If you’re feeling that someone might be helped by talking about some things that they haven’t talked a lot about, you can use music as the buffer, put on the music that they enjoy, and then talk, talk back and forth. Oh, maybe there’s a line about music. Excuse me, memories or regrets? I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention. Right? Regrets. Oh, you’ve had a great life, but do you think you have any regrets? So it has the opportunity to spark some conversations that might not otherwise happen and yet will be really, really integral in having some resolution.
00:17:32 – Gloria Grace Rand
00:17:34 – Linda Bryce
Okay. So that’s another way, but yes, Threshold Choir.
00:17:38 – Gloria Grace Rand
But that was good. No, thank you. Thank you for pointing that out. That is good. I wanted to ask a little bit about, how does it help? Because clearly, we’ve talked about that. It does help the person who is going through who is ill or what have you, but how does having a Threshold Choir impact other family members who are there?
00:18:05 – Linda Bryce
The vibrations of song flow out and surround everyone within the listening space. So, I’ve seen family members who are, and not paying attention to what’s going on. Oh, yeah, that’s happening over in the bed. I’m over here. And you begin to sing, and the vibration, the vibrations flow out, and you create a whole different atmosphere in the room. It’s peaceful, it’s calm, dare I say, it is sacred. And so, the noise quiets, and they get into this space, too. Think of songs even as sung prayers. That’s right. So internally, you get into a different space as well. And yes. So, they’re comforting. They’re consoling as well. They’re reassuring not only family, but caregivers and staff. I’ve been singing, for example, to this one woman at a vigil and in our Berkshire Threshold Choir, our singers, we are also hospice volunteers. We have gone through all the hospice protocols, and we’re certified and all like that. Personally, I also hold a professional certificate as an end-of-life doula. So, I have that layer as well to be there. So, staff as well. This one staff member came in to check, and then she went to the door, and she stopped, and she remained in the doorway until I finished singing. And when I finished, she said, “Ahhh, that sure soothed my soul.” And then she left and continued on her rounds. I’ve had caregivers or staff cry. In one case, the staff said, this is a nurse who was at bedside saying, “The words in the music are so beautiful.” And in others, it happens. Like what you explained before in your experience, that you hear music and you’re back in high school, and the particular song that was being sung at the time reminded them that, oh, that was sung at my dad’s funeral, or, that was sung at my mom’s funeral, or that was sung at the celebration of life or whatever. And yeah, music really touches us deeply.
00:21:09 – Gloria Grace Rand
For those who are listening and are watching and are maybe curious, I’ll ask this for them because I know when we first talked, I was wondering about it. So are the songs that you sing, are they typically like religious songs that people would have sung in their, whatever faith they belong to, or could they be just other popular songs or something?
00:21:35 – Linda Bryce
Threshold singing groups, which are local chapters, which ours is, Berkshire Threshold Choir is a local chapter of the National Threshold Choir International. We have access to the Threshold Choir song books, and these are more than 500 songs at this point that have often been written by Threshold Singers. And in fact, after I began singing, I started receiving songs. So those songs are nondenominational. They’re about peace, they’re about love, they’re about grace, they’re about rest, they’re about being comforted. They’re about, “I let the river, the healing water. I let the river carry me home.” Some are upbeat like that. And then there are other kinds, of course, tempo songs. Now, that’s not to say that when we are aware of someone’s religious affiliation that we pull out a song. I was singing at a nursing home, and that day it was in the hallway by the nurse’s station because that’s where the individual was. And of course, all the folks sitting in their wheelchairs and with their walkers and whatever going by are also being serenaded, which is great. And this one woman came by in her walker, and she says, that lady over there would like you to come over and sing to her. I said, okay, fine. So I go over and say, hi, I’m Linda. I understand you’d like a song. And she said, “Yeah. You know, when my dad died, we played the Old Rugged Cross. Do you know that?” I took a breath and I pulled most of it up from my memory. It’s easier when people don’t make specific requests but yes, but we will sing songs from their tradition.
I think part of… There is a notion that when we sing songs that are not familiar, it’s easier for the person to release and move on. And they’re all just so beautifully comforting and consoling and reassuring anyway, it’s like… Yes. So we mix it up. Again, okay, threshold. Well, as you may know, your listeners may know, you can be on hospice when you’re still ambulatory and alert because you’ve perhaps just been diagnosed. And the understanding is, or the expectation is that if this progresses the way it does, you will pass over in about six months. So, at that point, then you’re not going to sing consoling, dying songs.
00:25:10 – Gloria Grace Rand
True. Right, exactly.
00:25:12 – Linda Bryce
Right. So you might sing Elvis, if that’s what they want, or folk songs, or if they like country, pull something out. You mentioned Mel Tillis and country music. And having said that, a person this day isn’t necessarily in the same space in the next visit, so we choose the music that seems… So let me edit my words, because I don’t do that. I allow spirit each time I’m at a bedside, I sit in the quiet and I allow spirit to lead me to the next song. But yes, and so there can be popular songs, they can be religious songs from a particular tradition, but always Threshold songs.
00:26:07 – Gloria Grace Rand
Yeah, I like that you mentioned that the Threshold songs that they’re not familiar with can be so powerful and that it does allow them to release. And I can see how that can happen, because I think when you do hear something that is familiar, then it really is sort of connecting you now to a memory of maybe when you heard that song before. And so, then they may be more focused on that as opposed to just being able to let go and just let nature take its course. If it’s time for them to transition, then they’re able to do it more easily when they’re just listening to peaceful music that they’ve never heard before. I think you’ve alluded to this already, but what normally I’ll ask someone, like, what really gets you excited about the work you’re doing? But I’ll say, what maybe drives you to continue to do this work? I’ll ask it that way instead.
00:27:10 – Linda Bryce
It’s very, um, I’m a healer. That’s one way, too. And I won’t go into all of that.
00:27:23 – Gloria Grace Rand
Well, you could if you want. It’s okay.
00:27:25 – Linda Bryce
I don’t know that we have enough time. Gloria. That can be a whole other show. Okay.
00:27:29 – Gloria Grace Rand
Okay. All right. We’ll have to have you back.
00:27:32 – Linda Bryce
There you go. I would look forward to that and welcome it. Thank you very much. I have seen from very from okay, so in writing this book, I was looking backward, and what I was reminded of was an occurrence when I was an 18 year old sophomore in college in New Jersey, and I was volunteering at a Social Services Department of the County General Hospital. And one day, and I still remember her name, June said to me, here, Linda, here’s a list of names. Go up on the wards and visit them. Okay. There was no talk about this or who these people are or whatever it was just go. In business, we’d say it’s a cold call.
00:28:26 – Gloria Grace Rand
Yeah, absolutely. Right. Wow.
00:28:28 – Linda Bryce
The first the first bedside I went to was this older gentleman who’s sort of lifting off the side of his pillow. Nobody’s around. I mean, these folks are, like, right, out of sight, out of mind. Good grief. And you can read it. I don’t remember the whole of it, but what has always stayed with me, with the nugget in the middle, is after I probably said, Hi, I’m Linda, and I just came up to say hello and see how you’re doing, or I don’t know what I said. He looked at me and he said, well, you know, I’m dying. Whoa. Okay. And I was like that, okay, now what do I do? Yeah. Now what do I say? And I can see that from there all the way forward to where I am now has been a journey to be comfortable and to help others show others how they can be comfortable at someone’s bedside. So, it’s your presence. And I would say this to those of you listening, even if you can’t carry a tune, right. You can play music. And if there’s no music, even, what is most important your presence, your being there. When my oldest daughter, who just turned 40 this month was maybe two, I walked into a nursing home one day with her, and I said, who doesn’t get any visitors? And I think that’s it. I mean, I continue to see so many individuals, even if they’re not dying, they now have an illness or a condition, whatever it is, that doesn’t permit them to participate in the activities they normally did. And how many of us may keep in contact for a while and then we don’t anymore because they can’t keep up with us. And so it’s a visit, and it’s a happy singing visit with yes, so we do sing songs as well. We also go into memory care units and sing and “You Are My Sunshine.” Everybody knows “You are My Sunshine” or “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” or “It’s a Wonderful World,” maybe or “This Little Light of Mine.” I mean things from, yeah, that people can participate. They get engaged, they get happy and toe tapping and hand clapping. And to be at someone’s end of life journey is really a privilege. I mean, that’s such an intimate spiritual experience that I’m honored to be there.
00:31:47 – Gloria Grace Rand
I know I appreciate what you’re doing, and I wish I had known about this when my sister was going through her transition, but I know that we did actually have the stereo playing on her final night, and so she did have playing some of the music that she liked, and I didn’t think to sing to her. I wish I had, but it’s okay. But she had her cat with her and she had the… There you go.
00:32:11 – Linda Bryce
And she had you there.
00:32:13 – Gloria Grace Rand
Exactly. Yeah. I was close.
00:32:14 – Linda Bryce
Right. Your presence, your presence.
00:32:18 – Gloria Grace Rand
Oh, goodness. I want to ask you this before we end here, because I know that there are death. For some reason, nobody likes to talk about death, especially in Western culture.
00:32:32 – Linda Bryce
We need to talk about it, folks.
00:32:34 – Gloria Grace Rand
00:32:35 – Linda Bryce
Guess what? Every single one of you, without exception will, quote, unquote, die.
00:32:44 – Gloria Grace Rand
Yeah. This body will cease. It will.
00:32:46 – Linda Bryce
There you go.
00:32:47 – Gloria Grace Rand
Yeah. So what’s a commonly held belief about maybe dying or hospice or something like that that you disagree with?
00:32:59 – Linda Bryce
Whoa. Oh, well, I think okay, that’s easy. That it’s the end.
00:33:09 – Gloria Grace Rand
I like that. Yeah.
00:33:10 – Linda Bryce
Curtains closed, lights out. Over and out, ten four, over and out. Yes, I was going to share something else about me, but that’s fine. But to say that I talk to people who are in spirit, you can, too. They’re around us all the time. Most all faith traditions accept angels. I mean, why aren’t we all angels when we go into spirit? I mean, that’s whatever. But to say that existence continues. So it’d be great if there were no one without song. And you can help spread the word about music at the bedside and about Threshold Choirs and Threshold Singing. Sometimes they’re called bedside singers, sometimes they’re called hospice choirs. But we do a lot of the same kind of work at the bedside. If you’d like more information about that, just grab a hold of me at my website, www dot. Thecouragetocare. All one word thecouragetocare.com. And you can also pick up a freebie, a free gift, Five trusted ways to ease someone’s dying. Music is one of them. I’ll give you a hint, but there are yes, I’d love to hear from you.
00:34:38 – Gloria Grace Rand
00:34:38 – Linda Bryce
And spread the word about music, music!
00:34:41 – Gloria Grace Rand
00:34:41 – Linda Bryce
Add it to your day. Yes, add it to your day.
00:34:43 – Gloria Grace Rand
It makes such a difference.
00:34:48 – Linda Bryce
It really does.
00:34:49 – Gloria Grace Rand
00:34:50 – Linda Bryce
Music will make you feel however you want to feel. It’s just a matter of choosing the music you want. So why don’t you put in the chat or no, the comments.
00:34:59 – Gloria Grace Rand
00:34:59 – Linda Bryce
List one of your favorite pieces of music.
00:35:02 – Gloria Grace Rand
Absolutely. Yeah. And you’re right for the moods, too, because there were so well, again, I’ll go back to when I was a teenager that life wasn’t always happy. As you know, when you’re a teenager, things happen, and maybe even middle school. But I used to put on Barry Manilow, and I love Barry Manilow, but also Barry Manilow can be good to help you cry.
00:35:22 – Linda Bryce
That’s why I said any, yes. If you need a pick me up, if you need to calm down. Yes, there is music that will match your emotional and mental needs.
00:35:37 – Gloria Grace Rand
And if you are not wanting to be depressed, then put on something happy. I love Pandora has, like, a happy channel or something. And so I listen to like, the happy radio, and they will have songs like “Happy” from I forget the guy’s name now and all sorts of upbeat things, because then I can be jamming along in the car when I’m driving. And it’s a good thing.
00:36:01 – Linda Bryce
Yes. Whenever I’m painting, I have to paint a room or something, do some kind of heavier work. I always have music on. It’s a great distraction, too, while I’m singing along.
00:36:14 – Gloria Grace Rand
Yeah, I would definitely put on music when I’m house cleaning because that’s not one of my favorite things to do. Oh, goodness. Thank you so much for being here today, Linda and I know you have enlightened our audience today, and I will make sure that I have all of your information will be in the show notes as well as the other resources that you shared as well. So, if you’re somewhere listening to this and you don’t have a pen handy, go to liveloveengagepodcast.com and look for this episode and you’ll be able to get all that information. So thank you. Thank you so much for being here today. I really appreciate it.
00:36:50 – Linda Bryce
You’re welcome. It’s been my pleasure. Bye, everyone. Go well and go safely. Go well and go safely. Go well and go safely and love abide with you.
00:37:07 – Gloria Grace Rand
And also go out and live fully, love deeply and engage authentically.
00:37:16 – Gloria Grace Rand
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