The Threshold Choir
"When I started this," Corwin-Renner tells me later, "I imagined that healing work would be mostly for the person we were singing to. But then I realized how much we were being healed. And there is a third layer: the family and caregivers. We've gone into the most tense situations, or where people were grieving so deeply, and when we're finished, the room is so much lighter-everyone seems transformed."
"You're not really trying to change something about where the person is," adds choir member Lindsay Passmore. "We just want to try to get with them in that place, and at the same time hold the possibility that this is a beautiful place and all is well."
I ask how the women can keep from crying. "I'm a really emotional person," Karen Chalmer replies. "I often cry for all sorts of happy, sad, whatever reasons. And I found, the one time that I sang, that that was nowhere in my mind. I was so focused on the sound and on the person, emotions never entered into it. But afterward I felt elated in a way, like I'd been in such a holy place."
The Threshold Choir always asks permission to sing a specific song at a bedside. Often family members and caregivers join them in singing it: "It's all right. You can go. Your memories are safe with us."