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The Seattle Times recently published a story comprised of images and video on musical thanatologists Jeri Howe and Claudia Walker (harp and voice musicians who play by bedside to serve the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the dying) from Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, Washington. After hearing of the practice years ago in my college town from Bellingham Herald photo editor, Russ Kendall, I kept the story in the back of my mind for a later date. This package of work is a group effort by myself, Genevieve Alvarez (Final Cut Pro wizard), Angela Gottschalk (picture editor) and Danny Gawlowski (multimedia whiz). See the original “Picture This” post here. Huge respect to the families and patients who allowed me to photograph such sensitive scenes – my heart goes out to you in the form good faith and positive thoughts for the well-being of you all. Thank you.

Musical thanatologist Jeri Howe, left, offers a quiet performance to Katherine Lyons, right, and her daughter, Liz Dobler, center, on Friday, Aug. 24, 2012, at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, Wash. Lyons was most recently hospitalized from pneumonia, but also suffers from myelofibrosis and cancer. Howe – along with a second harpist, Claudia Walker – work split weeks under the auspices of the Spiritual Care department with the hospital’s Sacred Harmonies program. Their music, soothing and therapeutic for terminally ill or uncomfortable patients, is offered as a sort of sonic vigil to help people sleep, meditate or find a sense of peace.

Claudia Walker, right, and Stephanie Storie, center, gently talk to Teedie Storie, left, who suffered from a random ascending aortic aneurism Monday, Aug. 13, 2012, at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, Wash. “We had just gotten to church yesterday when my mom said she felt a shooting pain in her throat and chest,” Stephanie Storie said. “We rushed her straight here.”

Over the notes of a harp played by Claudia Walker, right, Stephanie Storie, center, kisses her bedridden mother, Teedie Storie, left, who suffered from a random ascending aortic aneurism Monday, Aug. 13, 2012, at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, Wash. “We had just gotten to church yesterday when my mom said she felt a shooting pain in her throat and chest,” Stephanie Storie said. “We rushed her straight here.”

Focusing and feeling the soft notes from her harp, Jeri Howe works through one of several songs for patient and stroke victim, Albert Lundeen, not pictured, on Friday, Aug. 24, 2012, at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, Wash.

Framed by the curvature of a harp, Nona Jones, a patient suffering from dementia, is offered a song by musical thanatologist Claudia Walker Monday, Aug. 13, 2012, at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, Wash. The sounds of the instrument have eased confusion and distress in past patients.

Musical thanatologist Jeri Howe, foreground, plays a vigil for, from right to left, bedridden James “Jack” Adams, son Charlie Adams, daughter Catherine Lau-Bingham, grandson Bryant Lau and friend Mike Stokesberry on Friday, Aug. 24, 2012, at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, Wash. James Adams passed away less than a half an hour later. Howe – along with a second harpist, Claudia Walker – work split weeks under the auspices of the Spiritual Care department with the hospital’s Sacred Harmonies program. Their music, soothing and therapeutic for terminally ill or uncomfortable patients, is offered as a sort of sonic vigil to help people sleep, meditate or find a sense of peace.

Musical thanatologist Jeri Rowe, left, performs a song for bedridden patient and stroke victim, Albert Lundeen, right, on Friday, Aug. 24, 2012, at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, Wash. Howe – along with a second harpist, Claudia Walker – work split weeks under the auspices of the Spiritual Care department with the hospital’s Sacred Harmonies program. Their music, soothing and therapeutic for terminally ill or uncomfortable patients, is offered as a sort of sonic vigil to help people sleep, meditate or find a sense of peace.

Musical thanatologist Claudia Walker takes a moment to compose herself in the quiet space of a relaxing room Monday, Aug. 13, 2012, at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, Wash. Walker – along with a second harpist, Jeri Howe – work split weeks under the auspices of the Spiritual Care department with the hospital’s Sacred Harmonies program. Their music, soothing and therapeutic for terminally ill or uncomfortable patients, is offered as a sort of sonic vigil to help people sleep, meditate or find a sense of peace.

Musical thanatologist Claudia Walker, center, holds the hand of Clara Murphy, 77, right, as they chat following a harp song by Walker on Monday, Aug. 13, 2012, at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, Wash. Murphy had requested her song to be Native American in its nature, reflected of her heritage. She was hospitalized for acute respiratory failure. Walker – along with a second harpist, Jeri Howe – work split weeks under the auspices of the Spiritual Care department with the hospital’s Sacred Harmonies program. Their music, soothing and therapeutic for terminally ill or uncomfortable patients, is offered as a sort of sonic vigil to help people sleep, meditate or find a sense of peace.

As she does after each patient performance, Walker files a report with the details of her visit Monday, Aug. 13, 2012, at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, Wash.

And the video:

  1. I came arcross your article while doing a Google search Music Thanatology current news and I find this photo article incredibly moving and so catches the way that M-T’s provide such loving support for the dying.

    Thank you!

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