Assisi Hospice

Following the Heartbeat: Composing the Final Movement for Patients

published by Lianhe Zaobao on May 21, 2024
Every day, Trudy Chua (on the right) sings songs that patients love. She believes the key to her work is using music to help patients who struggle to express emotions, enabling them to convey deep feelings of gratitude, regret, and reluctance to leave their loved ones. (Photo by Assisi Hospice)

Translation of article:

Accompanying terminally ill patients on their final journey with music, music therapists also seek to provide care for their families. They record the heartbeat of the patients and use this rhythm to compose personalised music pieces.

They also collaborate with the patients’ families to write lyrics together, as a way to commemorate and express emotions, comforting them in their loss.

At Assisi Hospice, music therapist Trudy Chua (32 years old) spends time each day singing songs that patients love. She notes that each patient prefers different musical styles – older individuals typically enjoy singers like Teresa Teng, Feng Feifei, and Fei Yuqing; middle-aged patients prefer artists like Jacky Cheung; and some patients find solace in church hymns for strength.

Additionally, she regularly discusses the patients’ conditions with doctors and nurses, and communicates with patients and families to understand their emotional journeys. She believes that her key role is using music to help patients who struggle to express their emotions, enabling them to express gratitude, regret, and their reluctance to leave their loved ones.

“There was a seriously ill patient whose husband was always distant with everyone. However, when I started playing and singing, he quickly let down his guard and began sharing stories with me about their life together. Moments like these make me feel blessed because I can be the bridge for them to convey their love and speak words that they’ve kept buried.”

Trudy Chua has loved music since childhood. While studying media locally in university, she met Sister Geraldine Tan, who worked in hospice care, and learned the meaning of end-of-life care through her. She also experienced the grief of her grandfather’s passing and volunteered at the hospital where he passed on, before deciding to study music therapy in Melbourne.

Now, after five years as a music therapist, she also aims to provide care for families who have lost loved ones. “I accompanied a deeply bonded pair of mother and daughter who often sang and danced together. When the mother reached a point where she couldn’t speak anymore, I recorded her heartbeat and composed a song for her daughter. She was deeply moved upon hearing the song. Since then, I’ve composed heartbeat songs for over a dozen patients as a memorial gift for their loved ones.”

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