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When the end draws near, Jennefer Dixon is there with a song.
“I go in with my guitar and book of music and play whatever music is special to that family and that patient,” she explained. “It might be old church hymns or Frank Sinatra, or some people just want you to play anything and take them away for a while.”
The music therapist serves patients at Faith Presbyterian Hospice’s T. Boone Hospice and Palliative Care Center.
“It’s a very intimate space you walk into, but you never know what they’re going to ask for as far as music goes,” Dixon said. “The caveat is your first visit with that family may be your last visit. So you have to do the very best you can to create that space for them, whatever that space is.”
“In the middle of that song, she passed away, and I saw it happen, but I wasn’t sure the family did. So I just continued to sing.” -Jennefer Dixon
Dixon majored in music education at Texas Women’s University with the intent of becoming a band director. When she realized that was not what she wanted to do, she researched and came across an article that talked about the healing power of music.
She has now worked in hospice for 13 years and had many moving experiences as a music therapist, including one with a brain cancer patient.
“She had days where she knew me, and we would visit and mostly just talk,” Dixon said. “There were other days I would go in, and she didn’t know me at all, and on those days her mother told me that she loved old hymns, especially, ‘Amazing Grace.’”
Then one morning the nurse phoned, “‘It’s time, could you please come see her?’” The patient was in bed with her husband holding her hand.
“Her mother came up to me and asked me to play her ‘Amazing Grace.’ In the middle of that song, she passed away, and I saw it happen, but I wasn’t sure the family did. So I just continued to sing, and when I was done, the nurse quietly went over and checked her and said, ‘She’s gone.’ Later that day, her husband asked me to play at her service, and that was the hardest service I think I’ve ever done.”
There are painful moments, yes, but Dixon recognizes the power of music therapy and sees it as a method to attain peace and solace.
“It is such a blessing to become part of these journeys and these lives and try to offer some comfort to these folks,” Dixon said. “It is my honor to work with these people and create that intimate space for them. I always wonder what I would do if I didn’t have music to help connect with these families. It’s a privilege, and I think everyone should be offered music therapy, especially at the end of life. I just love it, and I don’t know what else I would do.”
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