x
Breaking News
More () »

Threshold Singers seeks new members for a unique calling

Singing at the bedside of the dying is a special calling, but it's not the only audience for the Threshold Singers.

SAN ANTONIO — The pandemic put a severe dent in the services offered by the San Antonio chapter of the Threshold Singers. Established in 2018, the comfort- and peace-providing singers had to pivot to patios at hospices, and that's still a reality now.

They are back, in-person, singing at the bedside of the dying.

"In practicality, that's what we do is we sing for hospice patients, just because there aren't enough of us," Deborah Carrithers said.

Carrithers leads a local group of about twelve singers—men and women. She points out their songs are solely for bedside goodbyes.

"The songs are designed and written to give comfort and peace at any point of struggle," Carrithers said.

The small ensemble is there to bring you through any threshold in life. 

"I've sung threshold songs into the ears of friends on the bus going to work because they just lost a job," she said.  

The Threshold Singers have become renowned for easing the pain of the dying and their families.

"We discovered early on that what we were doing was modeling a way for the family to make these last moments meaningful," Carrithers said.

But due to their limited membership, they can only sing on so many occasions. Carrithers said they are looking for new members to join their ranks. 

It is a special calling, though, almost like a ministry. But the group is consciously nondenominational. Even the songs they sing are not familiar tunes, and the music and words are inspired and original. However, the group is still able to perform recognizable songs upon request. 

"It's a relief for that family, for that person, and actually for us. Because we know we help them with what they needed."  

Member Barbara Friedson knows the impact of their voices. She experienced it by singing to someone who remains dear in her heart.

"I watched my mother die, and I sang to her," Friedson said. "It really brought joy to me." 

Joy is what former hospice worker Jennifer Janes said threshold singing brings to her life.

"I've watched hundreds, if not thousands of people die," Janes said. "By the time death comes for us, it's usually a blessing." 

Because, she said, death is hard work sometimes. And that's where their singing assists.

"You have to relax to die, basically," she said.

"We have to experience that vulnerability"

Before deploying three to four members for what they call "sings," new members have to gain patient perspective by sitting in the cloud chair. 

It's a lawn-like chair that reclines, giving the point of view of a patient as existing members sing.

"We have to experience that vulnerability," Carrithers said.

New members prepare by studying death and confronting their mortality—things that singer Melissa Miller said she wanted to better understand when she joined.

"I wanted to prepare for my own death," Miller said. "And I thought the best way to do that is to be there with others dying."

Miller said she learned there's more to transitioning than she thought.

"There's more that happens in a room of someone dying than can be seen," she said.

Rene Ornes was a doctor for 41 years. He said Threshold Singers made a different kind of medicine available to him; the service also gives him peace.

"No matter what kind of day I had, no matter how many troubles I was facing or issues I had—while I was singing, I felt peace wash over me," he said.

Tears will roll because of the work. Sobbing is something they try to keep out of the room. 

"A few discreet tears are OK. We want to honor the grief that is happening in that room," Carrithers said. "But if it gets beyond that, then we're adding to the burden." 

The group said it's one purpose, one voice for the patients and the families of those leaving.

Every hospice "sing" does not end in death. Sometimes miracles happen for those in the right place, singing the right song.

"We learned that one of the people in hospice that we sang for got up and went home," Miller said.  

Paid Advertisement

Before You Leave, Check This Out