Loss, we all discover, is an inevitable part of being. Birthdays, graduations, weddings, the welcoming of new family members. And the passing of friends and loved ones. The events that take place between the point of our advent and the point of our departure construct for us the fabric of life. Not all of life’s moments are steeped in joy. Even so, some of the most challenging times can be eased with the gentle application of an art form with us almost since the beginning of our kind. Deb Getz started singing in her church choir when she was just 5 years old. Musical theatre in high school and exploration of music at the college level followed. But after venturing on to sing with Carolina Voices, jazz ensemble Impromptu, and delivering her rendition of the American National Anthem at various sporting events, Getz allowed her voice to grow silent – until she began volunteering at the Levine & Dickson Hospice House in June of 2010. “I’d lost two people very close to me – one a dear friend and the other my oldest son – within the last few years. Hospice was so helpful. Their services resonated with me. I was inspired to step up and make a call to see if I could volunteer,” says Getz. One day, while still in volunteer training, Getz says, the topic of singing to patients arose in conversation. “There was a patient who was restless that day and one of the nurses said the patient would benefit. I pulled out a hymnal and went in. The patient was non-responsive. She was in her 90s and she had an unrepaired hip fracture. The staff were keeping her as comfortable as they could,” Getz recalls. “I hadn’t sung in a really long time and had no idea what I was going to sound like when I opened my mouth. I knew if I was going to have an accepting audience she would be it. I started singing Amazing Grace and realized I could feel my voice filling the room. The patient opened her eyes and looked at me. I kept on singing and gave her all of my energy, focused on her, and let the music do what it was supposed to do. I watched her face changed while I was there and when I finished I could tell she was asleep. There was a peacefulness about it.” Jan Kurtz’s family experienced, first hand, the power of Getz’s gifts. “My sister, Kathryn Cloninger, who died of lung cancer in November 2010, went into the Hospice House on October 4th, 2010. She always thought she could do things on her own but eventually found out she couldn’t. Our sister, Joyce Webb from Connecticut, was the first of us to visit Kathryn at Hospice House and experience the work that Deb does,” recalls Kurtz. Webb told Kurtz she had to hear Deb Getz singing to Kathryn. Kurtz says that the family experienced connections with Deb Getz on many levels. “I heard Deb singshe has the voice of an angel, and this way with people I can’t describe in words. Her voice and her actions are amazing.” During the time Cloninger was at the Levine & Dickson Hospice House, Getz sang to her once per week. “I heard her sing three different times,” said Kurtz. “And a couple of times, my sister Joyce sang with Deb. There was one point when my sister, Kathryn, was coherent and requested some songs. Deb and Joyce ended up getting a duet going. It was beautiful. Deb melted Kathryn’s heart with her voice and her actions. I have never experienced anything like that before in my life. I was so grateful to be a part of it.” Kurtz noted that she was incredibly impressed by all of the volunteers at Levine & Dickson Hospice House. The assistance of a significant body of volunteers makes it possible for Hospice and Palliative Care Charlotte Region to provide care and services for approximately 1,000 patients per day wherever they call home, says Christine Brown, senior director of marketing for the organization. “We have 16 beds at the Hospice House, but we serve people in their own houses as well. Hospice of Lake Norman serves the needs of that area. And there is a regional office in Cabarrus County as well.” “I don’t think people realize how important it is for patients to have a team of specialists helping them through the end of life process. People often comment that we offer ‘end of life dream teams’ – we have doctors, nurses, chaplains, grief counselors, nurse aids, and volunteers. These volunteers and specialists enable us to help people transition from this world,” says Brown. When asked if she would recommend that people take advantage of the services offered by Hospice House, and particularly, the talents offered by Deb Getz, Kurtz says, “Absolutely. The feeling you get when you walk through the doors is genuine. The teamwork of all of the people who are a part of the organization is amazing. It’s wonderful. I would suggest anyone consider using hospice services, even if the process begins at home.” And how does Deb Getz feel about being a part of such a team? “All of the volunteers at Hospice House are amazing. Every time I leave there, I find myself saying, ‘Wow. They are wonderful.’ And I have to say that if I could sing to dying patients every day I would.”
More information Like Deb, many volunteers with Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region share their musical talents by singing or playing musical instruments, such as the harp, guitar, saxophone, bass, flute and clarinet. More volunteers are welcome. Contact the volunteer services department at 704-335-3578 for more information.
For more information about Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region, go to www.hpccr.org or call 704-375-0100.