"I have worked as a therapeutic harpist at the bedside of patients for over ten years. One of the most undignified, sterile and difficult situations I’ve encountered in the hospital is the withdrawal of life support, “pulling the plug”. Most often this takes place after weeks of suffering, both by patient and family members. The room is stark, the procedure glaringly impersonal and technical, and the grace and dignity that should accompany the end of a life are often not present. My therapeutic harp music has always offered solace and helped the patient relax and pass more easily. But I have longed for more ways to bring grace and beauty into this setting and to teach staff and family members to do this as well. When taking the Light Body training, I thought it would be impossible to actually bring the great death rites into the ICU.
Two days after I returned from the Dying Consciously Teacher Training, I was called to the Heart Hospital of New Mexico where I work by the Chief of Surgery. (The Heart Hospital had eliminated the position of Chaplain and no one was there to give any spiritual support to the family.) He asked me to come right away to the room of his patient where life support was going to be withdrawn. (The family had also asked for the harpist.) This was my opportunity to play the harp and also to step out from behind my harp and offer even more fully to the family and patient. Now, after the Dying Consciously training, I had more tools, and the passion and commitment to use them. Spirit was opening a door and inviting me in!
I spoke with the family and said I was there to support them in any way they wanted or needed. I visited with them a bit and asked if they would like me to pray with them at the bedside, to which they said yes enthusiastically. Then I explained that I would be playing for the patient to facilitate her relaxation while they waited for a few other family members to arrive. I went to the patient and, in the room alone, performed the seven chakra cleansing in her light body. The patient’s nurse and a student nurse entered. The family then came in and gathered around the bed. I encouraged each of them to say their “goodbyes” and “I love you”’s and anything else they needed and wanted to say. I suggested they each place their hands on the patient’s body and I said several prayers that were in their tradition.
I played the appropriate music on the harp (the same type as on the recording I made for the Dying Consciously Project). During this time the Respiratory Therapist came in, removed the breathing tube and stopped all medication. The patient’s respiration became shallow and shortly after, while still playing the harp, I felt my whole body tingle, a cold wave went over me, and I looked to see that the heart line on the monitor was flat. She was gone. And so very peacefully.
I continued to play as the family said their last goodbyes and cried some. After all had left the room, I stepped out and asked the nurse if I could have five minutes alone with the patient. “Anything you want, honey! That was beautiful.” he said. I stepped back into the room and performed the great death spiral and released her light body. I could feel it very tangibly as I skimmed it from her feet over and off her body. There was deep peace and stillness. In deepest gratitude and awe, I left the room. I had witnessed the greatest journey and I felt so blessed to have more tools now with which to assist and comfort.
In Deep Gratitude, Sue Hoadley (close window)