Dedicated singers ease the journey home

NOTE: This story ran in the Catholic Free Press on October 21, 2016 in their Bereavement supplement.

Each Wednesday afternoon, eighteen men and women gather at the Congregational Church in Westborough to rehearse songs for performance. They have come from various churches, Catholic and Protestant, in Westborough, Northborough and Marlborough. Some come from the Westborough Community Chorus and the Assabet Valley Master Singers. The performances for which they rehearse are however, not meant for entertainment.

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(L to R) Jim Nolan, Mary Beland and John McCann are members of the Journey Home Singers and all are members of the St. Luke the Evangelist choir in Westborough, MA. Beland invited both men to join the Journey Home Singers.

The Journey Home Singers sing in homes, hospitals and nursing homes to hospice patients. “Our intention is to bring comfort, beauty, caring and compassion with our singing to anyone who wants us to visit,” said Kathy Todd, director of the Journey Home Singers.

Todd started the group in June of 2009 after attending a singing workshop in the Berkshires. During that gathering, flyers were distributed for a workshop involving hospice singing. Todd was immediately intrigued, inspired by her own personal experience with caring for a dying sister.

“We started [the Journey Home Singers] in June of 2009, which was about six months after my oldest sister died,” recalls Todd. “My sister Martha had been ill with COPD for several years, and had just entered hospice care at her home in August 2008. On August 19 she fell and broke her hip and was taken to ICU at St. Vincent’s in Worcester. About a month later, doctors determined there was nothing more they could do for her, other than having her live attached to a ventilator. My youngest sister and I kept a vigil with her that night after she decided not to go with a ventilator. Time spent by her bedside was the first catalyst that led me to realize a vision that became the hospice choir.”

The workshop was run by Hallowell from Brattleboro, VT. Their mission is to offer support to the dying by bringing comfort, calm and beauty. After attending, Todd felt compelled to start a group. “I thought about it for a long time, I had no experience as a director,” she said. She decided to call her choir the Journey Home Singers, inspired by a song she heard at the workshop, “Angels Hovering Round”: “We’re on our journey home…”

Todd began her search for members, beginning with her choir at the Congregational Church in Westborough. She expanded that search to other church choirs and community choruses. Mary Beland, member of the St. Luke the Evangelist Choir in Westborough, was one of the first to join.

“I received notice from Betsy Sowers (a friend of Todd) that the Journey Home Singers was just being conceived and Kathy was searching around for singers to join,” said Beland who is also a member of the Assabet Valley Master Singers. Recently she invited fellow church choir members Jim Nolan and John McCann to join.

Once assembled, Todde sought to publicize the group. “I work for the Community Advocate (out of Northborough) and they were very supportive,” she said. The newspaper did a story on the Journey Home Singers in 2010 and granted Todd time off as needed to do the performances.

Because they seek to personalize their song selections for each patient, The Journey Home Singers offer a wide repertoire of songs taken from both Christian and Jewish traditions. Soon after the article ran, Todd connected with Mary Poole, once the hospice chaplain at Beaumont Nursing Home in Westborough who assisted Todd in in this effort by supplying the patient’s first name and last initial, faith tradition and condition (responsive/unresponsive).

Beland’s motivation for joining the group was similar to Todd’s. “I was already comfortable with the idea because I sat with my sister while she was dying. She and I shared the same love for music.” She knows that as a ministry, one may not always get feedback from a patient. “If you want applause, you might not get it,” she said.

Nolan feels it is a way to continue to have music in his life while helping others. He too understands that responses will vary although he has noted a “flutter of an eye, a tear, a raised hand” from those to whom he has sung.

McCann was motivated to join because of a rather involved experience he had years ago traveling to Guatemala with his then teenaged son only to return and discover that his brother had unexpectedly passed away. He recalled a moment when he was alone during the trip, surrounded by the wind, noting the quiet and sensing that something was happening.

“In Lo De Bran in the early afternoon, I was sitting alone by a well, on a wall. No one was near me. I was surrounded by a gentle soft warm wind which engulfed me. I felt a little different, but did not think much of it, other than it was very hot … I … felt a very quiet peace.”

When he learned when his brother had been stricken, he realized it had happened while he was sitting by that well. “The Good Lord kept Jim in our presence for three more days, allowing my son Aidan and me to return safely from Guatemala and to be with him. I could never explain how even in the horrors of Jim’s death that God can be so good so as to allow Aidan and me such special moments with Jim just before he died.” It was this experience that prompted McCann to minister to other such people through the Journey Home Singers.

Stories abound of experiences with patients. Todd recalls a man who kept a hymnal near his bedside but was unable to hold the book open due to his condition. “He was a singer – after one song, he joined in even though he really couldn’t hold the book. It made him so happy,” she said.

One experience involved a little girl. “We went into Boston Children’s Hospital to sing for a seven-year-old girl — one of our toughest. She was not conscious and had seizures three to four times a day. The whole family was there, so upbeat. They put their arms around her and sang to her – they would sing along with us,” recalls Beland.

The Journey Home Singers thus fulfills a much needed mission. “If can we talk about dying and be aware of our own death, we can become more comfortable with it and use the time have now in a much more effective, more beautiful way. We’ll live well,” says Todd.

If you are interested in joining The Journey Home Singers, you can contact Kathy Todd at lightsong60@gmail.com or call 508-335-1043.

 

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Susan’s latest CD, “Mater Dei” is now available!
Purchase here.

Many people find coloring to be a wonderful way to relax and experience harmony in their lives. Is that you? Join my Email List to subscribe to this blog and receive your free Harmony coloring book (and more).

River of Grace Audio book with soundtrack music available now on Bandcamp. Listen to the preface of the book, and all the songs.

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The She-Shed–your dream sacred space? Definitely mine!

How many of you are love in tiny houses? Do you want Tiny House Hunters on HG-TV, secretly wishing you could buy one too?

What makes you want a tiny house?

I know what it is for me–I love how cute they are. And the innovation employed by designers to incorporate storage and privacy along with functionality just knocks my socks off.

And now it’s gone to another level.

Men have their man caves. And now women have their she-sheds!

I saw these two the other day on Facebook and honestly, I couldn’t choose …

Do I pick this one …

she-sheds-garden-man-caves-rustic contemporary
from http://www.boredpanda.com/she-sheds-garden-man-caves/

or this one?

she-sheds-garden-man-caves-gingerbread
from http://www.boredpanda.com/she-sheds-garden-man-caves/

Once I saw the inside though, I made my choice.

she-sheds-garden-man-caves-gingerbread
from http://www.boredpanda.com/she-sheds-garden-man-caves/

It reminded me of the Gingerbread houses in Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard. I got to do a gig at The Tabernacle there once and stay in one of those adorable houses. I gave a quick tour in this video on my performance:

But I have to say, the rustic house appealed to me too, giving the illusion of living outdoors.

How about you?

What’s your preference? Check out this sampling of she-sheds and pick your favorite. Let me know what you pick and why.

Such fun to dream … maybe someday .. I have a big enough backyard …

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Many people find coloring to be a wonderful way to relax and experience harmony in their lives. Is that you? Join my Email List to subscribe to this blog and receive your free Harmony coloring book (and more).

Susan Bailey, Author, Speaker, Musician on Facebook and Twitter
Read my other blog, Louisa May Alcott is My Passion

 

 

Book signing at Boucher’s in Worcester, Sat., Nov. 21 from 11-1 with live music! Come and say hello

I will be at Boucher’s Good Books, 254 Lake Street, Worcester for a River of Grace book signing and impromptu live concert featuring the music from the River of Grace Soundtrack CD! The book and CD would make a great gift for someone you love. Come on down and say hello!

boucher's

 

Recently Lisa Hendey, best-selling author of The Grace of Yes and the Chime Travelers series reviewed  River of Grace:

Susan Bailey has faced her fair share of challenges and “difficult times” and yet she’s emerged not only a survivor, but also even stronger in her spiritual commitment and joy. In this book, learn what made the difference for Susan in her spiritual journey, but even more so how to face your own struggles with a faith that will renew and support you. A perfect gift for any friend or loved one facing a time of loss or difficulty, or for yourself when you need the companionship of a trusted friend. The “Flow Lessons” contained in this book are the perfect tools to help you more fully rely on God’s love in your life. Highly recommend!

Paulist Press editor and author Jaymie Stuart Wolfe (Adoption: Room for One More?) had this to say:

In this EXCEPTIONALLY well-written book, Susan Bailey shares some of her most challenging moments and shows others how to find the grace hidden in life’s difficulties. This book inspires Christians to pursue the paths of authentic faith amid the currents and seasons of life. The “flow lessons” that accompany each chapter provide readers with simple, hands-on, experiences that move the author’s reflections into concrete and practical application. With both eloquence and humility, what River of Grace offers is a deeper answer to personal struggle, and a healthier alternative to the fake-it-til-you-make-it mentality. Above all, this is a book that gives hope.

Looking forward to seeing you on Saturday–spread the word!

river of grace featured

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Keep up with news and free giveaways regarding Susan’s new books, River of Grace
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Find Susan’s books here on AmazonPurchase Susan’s CD.

Facing challenges in our lives–an interview on Relevant Radio.

relevant radioI had a wonderful conversation with John Harper on Relevant Radio’s Morning Air program. He did a great job of encapsulating the hopeful message of River of Grace. Here’s the interview:

I was in good company judging from the guests:

morning air

Be sure and visit the show’s archive page to hear these other guests. I have Sarah Reinhard’s wonderful book, Word by Word, on the Hail Mary and just received Lisa Maldinich’s book called True Radiance: Finding Grace in the Second Half of Life (with a stunning front cover). Great stuff out there!

You can find River of Grace in paperback, audio and ebook on Amazon.

For those of you who live in the Central Massachusetts area, come on out to the Westborough Public Library in Westborough, MA between 12 and 3 on Saturday, the 14th. See you there!

00 twitter profile 400x400both books river firstJoin my Email List (special surprises just for you!)
to subscribe to this blog.
Keep up with news and free giveaways regarding Susan’s new books, River of Grace
and Louisa May Alcott: Iluminated by The Message!
Susan Bailey, Author, Speaker, Musician on Facebook and Twitter
Read Susan’s blog, Louisa May Alcott is My Passion

Find Susan’s books here on AmazonPurchase Susan’s CD.

Matt Maher rocks the house for Christ

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Matt Maher, Contemporary Christian artist

Anyone who enjoys Contemporary Christian praise and worship music knows about Matt Maher. Coming on the scene in 2007, Maher has written and produced eight solo albums with three of them having reached the Top 25 Christian Albums Billboard chart; four of his singles have reached the Top 25 Christian Songs chart (Wikipedia). He was awarded the Dove Award this year for Songwriter of the Year and Best Song (“Because He Lives (Amen))” Continue reading “Matt Maher rocks the house for Christ”

Here is a full preview of “River of Grace: The Soundtrack”

The end of my fundraising campaign for River of Grace: The Soundtrack is just around the corner and I thank all those who have so far donated to the campaign–your support means a lot!

The album is finished and I can now give you a full preview. From listening to this preview you will see that I got an exceptionally good product for a budget of $1600; in fact, it’s phenomenal! I can’t begin to thank my producer, Ron Zabrocki, enough for his talent, vision and commitment to this project.

Here is a sample of all seven songs (minute long samples):

And here is the artwork for the CD:

front and back
front and back of the CD
CD Booklet Inside
inside the booklet – a passage from the book to go along with the song

I hope you have enjoyed this preview. My Indiegogo campaign is ending this Thursday, the 15th and we have a ways to go. Your donation would be most appreciated. We have the finished product but expenses need to be covered. Please visit my campaign at http://igg.me/at/susanbailey.

Thank you for all of your support!

00 twitter profile 400x400both books river firstJoin my Email List (special surprises just for you!)
to subscribe to this blog.
Keep up with news and free giveaways regarding Susan’s new books, River of Grace
and Louisa May Alcott: Iluminated by The Message!
Susan Bailey, Author, Speaker, Musician on Facebook and Twitter
Read Susan’s blog, Louisa May Alcott is My Passion

Preview from the River of Grace Soundtrack: “How Can I Keep from Singing”

The CD is coming along nicely and I expect to have some finished product later this week! I will share as I receive them. There are several short videos on my Indiegogo campaign page that you can view for a sneak preview.

Here is one showing the progress so far on a classic hymn, “How Can I Keep from Singing:”

We recorded the lead vocals at Ron Zabrocki’s studio and then later I added on harmonies from my own studio which I then sent to Ron. He then will polish it with additional instruments and vocals. I can’t wait to hear what he does and share it with you!

In River of Grace, I wrote about how it felt to lose my singing voice …

“Eventually we face the prospect of letting go of something we cherish about ourselves. As my voice began to lose consistency, I knew now how others felt: the loss of my voice truly was a death. I missed that sensual feeling of singing, how it used to vibrate in my throat and buzz in my head. I’d never again hear that nice clear sound echo throughout the church and come back to me. I had sung with such ease that I could forget all about the technique of singing and just get into the prayer of it. There were times when those memories would flood my mind, and I would break out in spontaneous tears.” (Chapter 3, River of Grace)

And then regain it again:

“Instead of being raw and fragmented, I began to feel whole. A sense of wonder and deep gratitude welled up
inside. The following Sunday as I entered the church to go to Mass I was immediately struck with the knowledge
that I had received a significant healing with that throat blessing. I couldn’t wait to tell the priest.

Thereafter during Mass I noticed that it became easier to sing the hymns. Buoyed, I pushed my voice a bit further each week. One day while driving home after Mass I sang some of the most challenging songs in my repertoire … and discovered to my delight that I could sing them just as I had before … I had received a physical healing along with the emotional and spiritual.” (Chapter 3, River of Grace)

Thus you can see how I had to record “How Can I Keep from Singing”!

Coping with loss

Perhaps you have lost something precious about yourself; something that was once so natural, so easy to do is now hard or impossible to do. As we age, this kind of loss can occur. We can lose something we cherish about ourselves and feel sad and adrift. It is a great challenge that requires patience and faith; we have to learn to let it go.

Mysterious mercy

In River of Grace I write about the struggle of letting something I loved go; I never expected to get it back again, It was in the course of writing the chapter that I experienced the healing. I did not seek it nor ask for it; I just wanted to learn to live with the loss. It was pure gift, abundant grace, and that is the mystery of God’s merciful love.

grace Art4TheGlryOfGod by Sharon Grace of God...
Art4TheGlryOfGod by Sharon “Grace of God…”, Flickr Creative Commons

My gift from God

All I know is that now I feel deep gratitude every time I open my mouth to sing. I savor the moments I can sing in church, awestruck that God would give me a second chance to sing for Him.

This is why I had to record this album. I wanted a musical testimony to accompany what I had written. I wanted to share my gratitude and offer a witness to God’s merciful love. His love is available to all of us!

Launch day is coming soon!

00 cover drop shadowBy the end of the month, River of Grace will be officially launched. The CD will be available as well. In the meantime, I would really appreciate your help in financing the CD. There are ten days left to contribute to my Indiegogo campaign; click here to contribute.

Over the course of the next ten days I will share other songs from the soundtrack and passages from the book to show you how these songs correspond with the text.

You don’t have to wait to order your copy of River of Graceit is available right now on Amazon and at a reduced price!

Thank you for your continued support!

00 twitter profile 400x400both books river firstJoin my Email List (special surprises just for you!)
to subscribe to this blog.
Keep up with news and free giveaways regarding Susan’s new books, River of Grace
and Louisa May Alcott: Iluminated by The Message!
Susan Bailey, Author, Speaker, Musician on Facebook and Twitter
Read Susan’s blog, Louisa May Alcott is My Passion

Celebrating a second chance with singing!

You lose something precious, an essential part of yourself.

You grieve. And rail. You lament. And cry.

You tick down a long list of regrets, of missed (and botched) opportunities.

You think it’s all over.

And then, you get a second chance.

Designhuone.net Second Chance logo
Designhuone.net Second Chance logo, Flickr Creative Commons

Four years ago I lost my music. The singing voice disappeared. The songwriting stopped. The passion died.

Or so I thought.

Continue reading “Celebrating a second chance with singing!”