by Elizabeth Giffin, Hospice Music Therapist
Carl had a deep love for country music, including his favorite artist, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and Glen Campbell, just to name a few. He and his wife had made multiple trips to Branson, Missouri and other iconic country music destinations, with the Grand Ole Opry being a highlight.
After a few months as a patient for Hospice of the Twin Cities, Carl reported, "I'm not doing too well, Elizabeth." He expressed the desire to write legacy letters to convey his love, regrets and hopes for those most dear to him. An especially poignant letter began for his granddaughter, Jennifer, whom he had helped raise during his son's difficult divorce. As Carl shared his dreams for Jennifer, I noticed a cadence to his statements, with several lines beginning with "down the road, I hope you..." I remarked, "You know, Carl, these phrases are starting to sound a lot like a country song" and Carl would grin with silent agreement.
As a music therapist, Carl's phrases and memories naturally transformed into song lyrics and melody. I thought of how special it might be if we could leave a song for Jennifer as a legacy gift. When I arrived for another visit to sing his song, Carl immediately began to follow along with my voice, reading the lyrics for the first time, singing along word for word. At the conclusion, I tentatively asked, "Carl, would you like me to record you singing this song?" He answered without a pause, "Well, I think you should, don't you?"'
Carl's wife offered their cassette player and a tape to record over. It took but one take to capture Carl's singing, his voice trembling and whispery.
Carl died two days later.
Song for Jennifer (chorus)
Down the road, I hope you find everything you're looking for,
Down the road, all you need to get along
Down the road, I hope you're greeted by big old open doors
Carry my love down the road, to keep you strong.