Her friend was dying of AIDS, and Kate Munger didn’t quite know how to help. She volunteered for a shift at his Petaluma, California, home. “When it was time to sit by his bedside, I was terrified,” says Kate, 66. He was agitated, thrashing under the sheets. So Kate did what she always did when she felt afraid—she began to sing:
“There’s a moon / There’s a star in the sky / There’s a cloud / There’s a tear in my eye / There’s a light / There’s a night that is long / There’s a friend / There’s a pain that is gone.”
Kate repeated the lyrics over and over, singing for two and a half hours. “It calmed me down, which calmed him down,” she recalls. “I knew I had given him the very best gift that I could. And by the time I finished singing, I knew this was something that would be shared.” And the Threshold Choir was born—now a group of 1,300 volunteers in 120 chapters around the world who provide comfort through song to people on the threshold of life.
“We’re death– and tear-phobic in our culture,” says Kate, who lives outside San Francisco, where the first choirs were founded in 2000. “We tend to make ourselves busy when we should sit down or pray or hold someone’s hand.” Singing gives a patient’s family “permission to be authentic with their tears, their laughter, their sorrow, their grief,” says Kate.
When invited to a bedside, choir volunteers select from a repertoire of about 300 songs, many written by Kate and other choir members specifically to convey presence, peace, and comfort. “We sing very softly and quite close,” says Kate. “We’re trying to re-create the distance between a mother’s mouth and a baby’s ear."
This Choir Sings to People on the Verge of Dying | Reader's Digest