Grace, Growth and Gratitude

September, 2006

When we welcome life’s passages, birth and death, into our daily lives, when we are not so distant and removed from these powerful times of transition between worlds, we become more comfortable around them and then of course, more amazed and graced by our living. I believe it is this grace that accounts for the dedication and spirit the Hallowell singers bring to their volunteer work through hospice.

Each time I send out a request for singers, either for a small group for a bedside sing or for a larger group for a community event, the Hallowell singers keep showing up. And they show up with their hearts open, ready to embrace life and death each time we are welcomed into the sacred space of dying. This is a low commitment group, I tell them when they first go through their singer/hospice orientation. Yet, during these past three and a half years, I have never had a problem finding singers. And it seems we always have a lovely blend of voices as well as the perfect soulful energy needed for each different situation we find ourselves in.

How does one express gratitude for something like this? And for a community that has welcomed us in ways we could not have imagined when we first tentatively began to offer our singing as another way to bring comfort to the bedsides of the dying.

Beyond the bedside singing, Hallowell continues to grow. We have become a model for other groups around the state of Vermont and will soon cross over the border into Canada. Over the past year, we have offered workshops in Middlebury, Burlington, Montpelier and at the annual statewide conference for Hospice and Palliative Care. In October, we’ll give a workshop in St. Johnsbury to help launch two more groups of bedside singers, one in Peacham and one in Littleton. In November, all of these newly formed groups from around the state will meet in Burlington for a day of singing and stories, to share ideas and inspire each other in our work.

Our new CD, Angels Hovering Round, is now available either through Experienced Goods or can be purchased through our own brand new web site We are pleased to offer another way to reach those who might find comfort in our songs and in the healing they bring.

These are the seeds we planted, and continue to plant, taking root and growing, reaching all corners of our state and beyond as this idea of bedside singing finds its way into the world because the time is right and the world is ready.

As we continue to expand and redefine who we are and what our mission is to include teaching workshops, recording a CD, being part of a documentary, we always remind ourselves that at the very core and heart of our ministry is our singing, quietly and reverently, around a bed where a soul is slipping over. Where a family gathers prayerfully, tearfully, gratefully while we sing. Where as soon as our voices open and find each other in harmony over the bed, family members find a place for their grief to rest for just a little while. And hopefully we bring a moment of grace and song , comfort and peace to the soul who is leaving and to those who are staying a little longer.

–Kathy Leo