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Let Life Be Like Music

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Let Life Be Like Music

Music therapy helps a lifelong artist and musician honor her past.

Walking up to Doris and Sam Cross’s home, it’s impossible not to notice the vibrant, patterned mural painted on the garage door. The artworks adds a bit of flair to their Park Ridge neighborhood, located just north of Chicago, Illinois. I’m here for Doris’s music therapy appointment with Soozie Cotter-Schaufele, a music therapist at Rainbow Hospice and Palliative Care. Doris is a 92-year-old woman suffering from lymphoma. Although still ambulatory, she is mostly confined to a bed in the front room of her home. Doris is excited to spend some time with us and listen to Soozie’s music.

As soon as Soozie begins to play her classical guitar, the physical impact of the therapy becomes immediately apparent. Through the music Doris becomes lively, swaying, dancing, clapping, and playing an instrument in time with the beat.

Doris smiles as she sings along to “Bye Bye Blackbird” and “Secondhand Rose,” a song Soozie learned just for her. Hearing these songs from her younger days brings back warm memories. She tells us about how she used to sing on stage as a young woman. Throughout the appointment we take similar pauses to reflect as Doris tells us stories about her life.

Doris’s creativity extends beyond the realm of music. She tells us that she created all of the artwork in the home, along with more than 300 other paintings. The painting of a mother and baby jaguar hanging above her bed is one of her favorites. Doris’s hospice team, recognizing her creative spirit, knew that music therapy could benefit her and honor her unique life story.

Music therapy even gives Doris the chance to try something new. Soozie guides her through playing a few notes on the harp and she is astonished by the sound she creates. The musical knowledge she’s gained throughout her years as a musician is easily applied to playing a new instrument.

To conclude the session, Doris leans back and rests while Soozie plays a soothing melody on the harp. A lifelong performer, Doris poses and smiles for the camera, flipping her hair to hide the tumor on her neck.

Looking around the Cross home, everything is a work of art—from the paintings on the walls, to Doris’s collection of colorful hats, to the mural on the garage door. Music therapy helps Doris continue to be an artist, even in her last days.

Doris passed away at her home on November 25, 2016. She lives on through her art and music.

Submitted by: Valerie Nikolas - Rainbow Hospice and Palliative Care

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