When words fail, music remains

You helped a loving couple connect one last time

Julian Sollohub witnessed the power of music therapy as a Big Bend Hospice social worker and as a son when his father was in our care.

Julian’s parents, Julian V. Sollohub and Catherine “Katie” Sollohub, shared a remarkable experience, thanks to the music therapy you provided, during his father’s final days. Julian, now retired, sent us their story below.

"My father was in the Hospice House, bedbound, with advanced Alzheimer's and other complications. He had not had anything but sips of water for days, rarely opened his eyes and had not responded to anyone beyond an occasional weak smile.

A Music Therapy intern visited while my mother and I were in the room. We told her that Dad had not seemed to react to earlier visits with music. She sat with us for a while anyway, and Mom reminisced a bit.

She told how, 69 years earlier, she had accompanied Dad to his first duty station in the Philippines. When they arrived, the Army had no quarters ready for them and another young officer and his wife, so they were put in tents in the jungle for the first few months.

The other couple had a wind-up Victrola, but only one record had survived the long ship voyage. For those first days of their new life together, the only song they all heard was 'Sweet Leilani' by Bing Crosby.

Naturally, this old favorite was not familiar to the young woman. However, a few days later, she visited again. Dad was still with us, but had declined even more. The intern said that she had researched the song and had learned the tune and lyrics. She asked if she could play and sing it for us.

Soon the room was filled with a beautiful rendition of this song that was such an important part of my parents' life. We were all deeply touched.

We looked up from our own recollections and glanced over to Dad. This face, which had conveyed almost nothing for weeks, now presented open eyes and a wide smile. I can't say that he was singing along, but his lips were moving slightly.

There was absolutely no doubt in any of our minds that he was, for this brief time, experiencing something deeply emotional and significant.

Dad died peacefully two days later, without having again responded openly.

We know that music occupies a profoundly elemental place in our being. We are so very grateful for this young woman whose gift, knowledge and compassion allowed a ray of light to penetrate my father’s confusion, pain and deterioration and brighten his world at the end of his life."