Today, the med school choir sang at what will be my final Palliative Care memorial service. We have been singing at them since the choir formed in my second year and have done at least 6, plus several memorial services for faculty.
It is kind of cool to attend these during clerkship because to be honest, I knew at least 5 of the people we remembered as people I had cared for on the floors. It is sad to know they died, but sometimes it offers some inner closure because then you know what happened to them. And it is nice to remember them. Plus, it is a good reminder of the families and how important it is to be there for people after death.
There is this one part where they have an open mic and you can get up and say something, if you want. Generally this is just before we sing a hymn. And every time someone gets up and says something that makes us all cry.
One time, it was a little boy who got up to remember his Grandma (and broke down in the middle, but insisted he needed to tell his story because Grandma would be proud). Another time, it was a daughter who told a story about how when her Mom went in to Palliative Care, all she did was sleep for three days, then one day she woke up and said she was hungry. She then ate everything is sight for a week, and died a day after that. Happy and full of food. Today, it was a mixture of a woman who came up saying her husband died and she wanted to apologize for how mean she was to some of the staff because at the time, she was hurting so much and a teenage girl who got up and said that she just wanted everyone to know that “death is a promotion from God” because everyone was just so sad and she wanted to make everyone feel better. Melts your heart.
The cool part of all of this is that it really does offer closure to a lot of families. And I think it is a good reminder that death is universal. Young and old, rich and poor… All sorts come in to this service. But, they all lost someone they love. I think it is a good lesson to all of us.
On a lighter note, we sang “Down By The River To Pray,” which some of you may recognize as being from the movie, Brother Where Art Thou. A moving song, yes… But, I could see a few people whispering and smiling when the recognized the song.
On another light note, the nun that organizes the service is mildly technologically challenged, so all kinds of interesting things went down with the PowerPoint, including missing song lyrics, a responsorial reading that awkwardly had no response, unusual slide effects and my favorite, the “zoom” sound effect… On full blast. She also always points out that the choir name is “Ultrasound” and that it is ironic because we are medical and nursing students. She is totally my favorite. I am glad she makes the effort to do this. It means so much to so many.
Although we sometimes complain that it takes extra time and such, this is something that is well worthwhile for our choir to do, even if many people avoid it like the plague. It is nice to be there for people at a difficult time and do something small to help out. And at the same time, it is helpful to keep us grounded as we go about our day to day lives.