Bessie’s Hope is a 501(C)(3) nonprofit. all donations are tax deductible

Community and Elder Program Feature Page September/October 2020

P.E.O Chapter EH partnered with Bessie’s Hope and paid an incredibly special visit to residents at TenderCare of University Hills. We were connected through one of our Board Members and long time supports, Ann O’Neill, who is a member of the P.E.O. Chapter.  Chapter members painted yard signs with simple inspirational messages hoping to provide colorful, uplifting messages of cheer that created a “Garden of Yard Sign Inspiration”. 

While placing signs, we also participated in a sing along.  Each round, we would personalize the song by singing specifically to each individual resident by name. We would clap along while singing and kept the tune simple so that participants could naturally sing along!  

The visit took place in the driveway of TenderCare. All wore masks and kept distance while joy and happiness were shared through music and clap along songs. Even though everyone was six feet apart, connection and love were felt by all

Threshold Choir

What is Threshold Choir?

August 2020
Debbie Aragon
debaragon5@gmail.com

One Choir, Many Voices
Singing for those at the thresholds of life in over 200 communities around the world.

Vision
A world where all at life’s thresholds may be honored with compassion shared through song.

Mission
Singing for those at the thresholds of life.

Website: www.thresholdchoir.org

History of Threshold Choir:

The inspiration and seed for the Threshold Choir was planted in June of 1990 in California by Kate Munger. She combined some profound personal experiences with death, with her love of singing, and being of service to others. She formed a group and then other groups began forming and spread throughout California. Chapters are now currently in many states in the U.S., as well as in Canada, and in other countries around the world. As of 2018, there were over 200 chapters worldwide, and that number is continually growing. Threshold Choir members are volunteers, who sing with and for all people who are facing death, grief or suffering.

What exactly is Threshold Singing?

The goal of Threshold Singing is to bring ease and comfort to those at the thresholds of living and dying. A calm and focused presence at the bedside, with gentle voices, calming, simple and often lullaby type songs, and sincere kindness, can be soothing and reassuring to clients, family, and caregivers alike. Most importantly, of course, the goal is always to convey compassion and respect for individuals at the threshold.
When invited to a bedside, there are small groups of two to four singers. Some songs are planned ahead while others are chosen to respond to the client’s musical taste, spiritual direction, and current receptivity. Many of the songs are composed by Threshold Choir members specifically to communicate ease, comfort, and presence. The songs are appropriate for all – those who are deeply religious or spiritual, or not at all. A session typically lasts about 20 minutes, sometimes a little longer depending on the individual situation. Using soft, lullaby voices, the voices blend in unison or in harmonies, singing as gentle blessings, not as entertainment. It is absolutely fine when a client falls asleep while listening to the singing. Most of the songs are very short, so their repetition is conducive to rest and comfort. Families have said that Threshold singing helps them to “be more present” with their loved ones.

Music has the potential to be a healing power and can be an instrument for peace and justice. Threshold Choir is committed to creating a harmonious culture of inclusivity, respect, and love, represents and welcomes all backgrounds, is non faith based, and does not tolerate discrimination in any form. Threshold Choir is a 501(c)3 organization, funded and supported by donations. There is great interest and support for Threshold singing from the public, the hospice community, and the choral community. Professional and academic recognition of the significance of this work continues to expand locally, as well as internationally. There are approximately 400 songs in the current Threshold Choir library and that number is growing – the songs are typically lullaby like, calming, short, soothing songs, having melody and 3 part harmonies. Of the many Threshold songs, there are a number of core Threshold songs, ones that tend to be sung more often than others. Each Threshold Choir chapter is firmly rooted in its local community while also being an important part of our shared community as an international organization, singing from the same repertoire and shared experiences at regional and international gatherings. Choir members are always welcome at rehearsals in any location and at Threshold gatherings outside their own home area. 

Who are those that become Threshold Choir members?

Many kinds of people are drawn to becoming bedside singers, and for many reasons. Some join after hearing about Threshold Choir or hearing the unique music, while some come after caring for a family member, or are hospice workers or volunteers. Some are part of traditional religions, some are not religious at all, and some have a personal form of spirituality that has no label. A few are professional musicians; most are not. All members learn to carry their parts and blend their voices, some by reading music and others learning solely by ear. Some have (or have had) careers in all types of fields, and some have focused on home-based work and volunteering. 

Rehearsals, in addition to practicing and learning the music, are also a time to enjoy each other’s company, and an opportunity to have fun and share concerns. Often times, meaningful friendships form within a Threshold group, and those relationships are deepened by the important work that is done together. As Threshold Choir singers, most importantly shared is a repertoire of beautiful, meaningful, and soothing songs and a desire to provide comfort and peace at significant and challenging stages in life. The opportunity to provide comfort and peace is a great motivation for Threshold Choir singers. But as singers we also benefit and are blessed by Threshold singing both in unison and in harmonies.

Auditions are not required of new singers, and yet there is required a certain level and style of vocal skill. Skills required for joining may vary from chapter to chapter, but these are the general guidelines for someone who wants to join with the intent of singing at bedsides:
1) be able to carry a tune,
2) be able to hold your own part (or sincerely want to learn to) while others sing harmony,
3) be able to sing softly and blend your voice with others (or sincerely want to learn),
4) be able to communicate kindness with your voice, and
5) be willing to use self-monitoring and accept peer feedback as we work together to bring the most blended and graceful sound to our clients.

 Threshold Choir Values:

We are committed to these values when we serve our clients. We recognize the privilege of being invited into our clients’ lives at a significant threshold and honor that privilege by maintaining these values at every level of the Threshold Choir organization:

We value honesty, sincerity, care, and respect in all our interactions.
We value each person’s own life path, choices, and experiences.
We value transformative power of love and the healing power of presence.
We value the importance of compassion and kindness.
We value the benefit of listening with more than just our ears.
We value caring for ourselves while being of service to others.
We value diversity with respect to spiritual paths, cultures, and abilities without respect to age, race, color, creed, gender, sexual orientation, or physical ability.
We value dignity, worth, and uniqueness of all people.
We value the sanctity of all life.
We value the rights of individuals to privacy, confidentiality, and self-determination.
We know that we are giving something extremely precious when we sing at the bedside of someone on the threshold. We are aligning our integrity, our gratitude, and our deep generosity with our voices and dancing in the balance
of humility and confidence,
of service and self-healing,
of one singer’s voice blended with others,
of following the breath of our “traveler” with the blessing of our own breath,
of the stranger bringing grace to an intimate moment.
We are making kindness audible.
Of the many occasions when the Threshold Choir has been featured in the media, the following selections have especially captured the essence of what Threshold Choir is all about and does in many communities:

Video and Audio Interviews:

The Washington Post Video
May 2018
“Dying is a part of living: Threshold choir visits hospice patients” (2:54 minutes)
PBS Video
December 2016
“The Threshold Choir” (6:33 minutes)
Great Big Story (CNN) Video
July 2016
“Songs of Comfort at the End of Life” (3 minutes)
KQED Video
June 2016
“Threshold Choir Brings Songs of Comfort to the Dying” by Rachel Berger (6 minutes)
NPR Weekend Edition
August 2014
“At Life’s Last Threshold, Choir Brings Comfort” by Emily Siner (5 minutes)
NPR All Things Considered
December 2013
“Threshold Choir Sings to Comfort the Terminally Ill”, an interview with Kate Munger, founder of the Threshold Choir, by Arun Rath (4 minutes)
Death: the podcast
August 2016
“The Gift of Song”, an interview with Annie Garretson and Sally Rothstein of the Pikes Peak Threshold Singers (34 minutes)
Well Talk Radio Interview
July 2016
Interview with Susan Randazzo, Charlotte Russell, and Suzanne Buell of the Threshold Singers of Indian Hill Music (30 minutes)

The practice began in California and spread to 130 communities around the world. The mission of the Threshold Choir is to bring gentle acapella singing to people who are dying in hospitals and hospices, usually with three or four voices at a time. We accompanied the Washington, DC Threshold group as it comforted a patient during the last stages of his life.
Aired: 12/16/2016

Publications:

“6 Stories That Will Inspire You to Give Back This Holiday Season: A Final Note” by Julia Scheeres, The Oprah Magazine, November 2018
“When someone hovers at the edge of death, these singers step in to ease the passage” by Debra Bruno. The Washington Post. May 2018
“This Choir Sings to People On the Verge of Dying, and It’s Just Beautiful” by Amy Paturel in Reader’s Digest, March 2016
“Threshold Choir: A Legacy of Healing and Peace” by Lynn Pribus in go60.us, June 2014
“Choirs support and comfort those at life’s threshold” by Sharon Sheridan in Episcopal News Service, December 2013
“Singing at the Threshold”
by Kelsey Menehan in The Voice, Spring 2013
“A Choir Rehearsal That Grew into Two” by Karen B. Kaplan in Offbeatcompassion (blog), July 2013

Family and Elder Program Feature Page September/October 2020

Family and Elder Volunteer April May began volunteering in the Fall of 2019 visiting with Sister Mary, Jack and Larry at Bethany Nursing and Rehab.  Unfortunately due to limited staff and technology, connecting has been extremely difficult during the pandemic. However, April May really stepped up and showed her support during our Bessie’s Hope virtual “E-Race Loneliness.”  Not only was she an absolute rock star, but also our grand prize winner!

April and her team members were able to raise six hundred and twenty dollars and she personally completed over 486,855 steps! 

We are so thankful to have such dedicated volunteers during this time.  Thank you, April for all of your steppin’!

 

Youth and Elder Program Feature Page September/October 2020

High School Senior, Jake Sheykhet is a talented artist and student who decided to share his artistic abilities with Bessie’s Hope! Jake became connected to us through his mother, Iryna Lukova, a Family and Elders Program member.

Jake has been conducting painting lessons via Zoom to one of our elder care communities, Garden Care Homes Jewell Estates. The painting lessons offer relaxation for the elders and the opportunity to tap into their creative sides. It is always a joyful occasion!




Staying Connected Initiative Volunteer Christina Manweller

One of our new volunteers, Christina Manweller,  came to help Bessie’s Hope through our  “Staying Connected Initiative.” Christina provided multiple recordings of herself reciting poetry that she had written to engage with elders and offer a creative and peaceful reflection during this difficult and stressful time.  Below you can read one of her poems!

“Aiming Toward Evening”, by Christina Manweller

Yesterday I cut back the unruly trumpet vine,

cut it back to a stubby flame of stick.

Like me: a shadow of itself,

but soon to bloom out of so dry a wick.

A bird busies himself,

knitting a distinct lulling song

around the late afternoon Sabbath.

The sun, sweet on my back,

won’t settle for long I know—

the earth inevitable in its movement.

Another bird starts a song

from across the yard,

knitting his own Sabbath coat.

It is possible to swaddle oneself,

to let go,

to bathe in song and in sun

and close your eyes, let go

of, and let go of . . .

A squirrel starts yammering

in the tall blue spruce,

a tree planted by Grandpa

when his son, my uncle, died.

I must remember

to water tomorrow if there’s no rain;

there will be no rain.

A crow calls from the yard next door.

Somewhere nearby, an electric saw cuts

the afternoon in two. Stops.

A finch flashes past

to land on the tall plank fence.

The sun warms my back still

though shadows crawl forward,

forward, and in a new wind I feel the start

of a certain coolening

as the Rocky Mountains reach reach for that sun,

so that I know the afternoon will bottom out

before long in a quick-fallen dusk.

From here I can see Pike’s Peak

rising deep blue, rising to the south

straight out of nothing,

the sky light and lightening up above.

Clouds, burrowing into one another,

form, re-form, then stagnate, and calm.

The crow yells, a primitive sound beseeching;

lifts off, flap-flapping away

to the west out of sight. The breeze stills.

A neighbor starts hammering—

hammering at something.

Whap whap whap whap. Stops.

“O.K.” he says. “O.K.”

Youth and Elder Program Feature Page July/August 2020

Evergreen Middle School student, Orlagh Laking, participated in our Youth and Elder Program with her classmates, but the experience didn’t include the physical interaction with the elders.  While the Evergreen Middle School students’ visits to The Garden Care Homes had to be cancelled due to Covid-19, we appreciate their cards, letters, drawings to still connect with the elders.

Orlagh painted stunning cards and wrote her heartfelt messages inside to send to send to our elder care partners.  Her efforts to be involved tapped into her artistic abilities to brighten the day and bring nature inside for the elders!  Pictured is one of her  hand-painted cards.

The students received the Bessie’s Hope education and training, so they were filled with compassion and respect for the elders.  Next school year will bring another opportunity to experience the beautiful interaction and cultivate relationships with the elders.

Family and Elder Program Feature Page July/August 2020

Family and Elder Program volunteer, Robin Arnett, has been participating in biweekly zoom meetings with her grand friend, Marge.  She also has consistently been sending letters to Marge and other residents in need of knowing that someone outside the elder care home is thinking of them and sending them love.  We deeply appreciate Robin’s commitment to our elders during this time, and we know that Marge loves staying connected even if it is virtually, for the time being.

Community and Elder Program Feature Page July/August 2020

The Regis University Service-Learning Department has been partnering with Bessie’s Hope for their healthcare students’ geriatric experience for almost 20 years in our Community and Elders Program.  Regis students of nursing, physical therapy, counseling, and pharmacology spend 10 hours with Bessie’s Hope, receiving our education and training relative to working with people who are living in elder care. They also receive information regarding the detrimental effects of ageism in healthcare, as well as society in general.  Other topics covered by Bessie’s Hope include having comfortable and meaningful interaction with elders who have advanced Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia.

The Regis students also participate in group gatherings facilitated by Bessie’s Hope at nursing homes and assisted living.  Even though COVID led to the hands-on visits being cancelled, the students participated in our Staying Connected Initiative.  They provided an abundant outpouring of letters, cards, gifts, and artwork, all of which were more than well received from our elder care communities.  One activity director said, “the cards and gifts were amazing, and it made everyone so happy.  We’re so grateful for you, your program and your volunteers.”  We are so thankful for our partnership with Regis University!

Family and Elder Program Feature Page – May/June 2020

We are grateful for technology during this time to help keep connections alive! Family and Elder Program Volunteer, Alex Cossoff, and Carol, resident at Bethany Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, have been enjoying 30-minute zoom calls once a week for the past month. Knowing how important Carol’s faith is, Alex suggested a virtual church service for Carol to attend! 

We are all adapting to this difficult situation and finding ways to stay together. Thank you to our Family and Elder Program volunteers for continuing to find ways to support your adopted family members. Thank you to all staff in nursing homes and assisted living homes for finding time to help nourish these important relationships to keep residents happy and engaged in meaningful relationships.

“I started visiting Carol in late 2019.  She requested someone to spend time with her, and I have been lucky enough to have the privilege to be her friend.  At first we got to spend time face to face, but now, we do a weekly Zoom meeting.  We love to dive into Biblical philosophy and talk about food, and her life growing up in Colorado.  My life is more fulfilling and rich with Carol in it.” – Alex Cossoff

Community and Elder Program Feature Page – May/June 2020

Teachers and administration staff from St. Mary’s Academy had a wonderful time at Garden Care Homes Pinehurst on Valentine’s Day! The volunteer group led a gift raffle, and residents got to pick out fun prizes! In true Bessie’s Hope fashion, there was a lot of laughter, singing and dancing!

We are so appreciative of our long time partnership with St. Mary’s Academy. The youth and adults from the school are supportive and loving toward our beautiful elders. Through our Staying Connected Initiative, students and adult volunteers have sent many loving and encouraging notes and artwork to elders who are so terribly isolated during this time. Over 25 students just from SMA have started a pen pal program!

Thank you to our partners, Garden Care Homes! We miss you and can’t wait to visit again!