This Singer Writes Original Songs for People Who Are Dying: ‘Comfort in Such a Hard Time’
Knowing the end of life is near can be a heartbreaking, challenging time. One woman is trying to comfort those who are dying by penning them an original song.
Songwriter Emily Cavanagh, like many, was devastated by all the death and isolation at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Wanting to help, she began calling hospitals to ask if any patients who were dying wanted to have a personal song written for them.
"I was so sad. I wanted to send a little light," Cavanagh told People. "People were dying with no one to hold their hand or be in the room with them or tell them a story or even listen to their story. It just felt like there wasn't much we could do. But in this really small way, as a songwriter, I started to think, 'Maybe I could find a way to tell people's stories through songs.'"
Hoping to provide a service to people who were feeling alone, Cavanagh launched her songwriting initiative during the summer of 2020.
"We just saw the power of music. This allows a little bit of peace and a little bit of comfort in such a hard time," she continued.
After receiving some money from a benefactor, Cavanagh started the non-profit A Song for You in June of this year.
"He [benefactor] was so generous and said, 'You've been doing this for free for 18 months. I would love for you to be able to continue this well beyond the pandemic.' But his only stipulation was it has to be a nonprofit. He said, 'I want you to keep writing for this specific population of people, people who are at the end of their lives who sometimes go forgotten and their stories aren't always told,'" Cavanagh explained.
In the beginning, patients wanted to hear covers of their favorite songs. Now, Cavanagh and her team of 50-plus volunteers write original songs for individuals who are dying so their life story can be heard in song.
Patients' families fill out a questionnaire so the songwriter can get to know the individua. The song is then written, recorded and sent to the individual. Many times, the lyrics to the song are printed out, framed and given to the patients' loved ones.
"It was just a small gift that we could send, and something that they could keep with them long after that person had passed," Cavanagh told People.
Cavanagh recently penned a song, titled "Singing Your Name," for a 38-year-old dad who was dying of cancer. His daughter wanted him to know his memory would live on in music.
"It's just this idea of going on even after someone has left. I'll go on singing your name. If it's a dark time, I'll light the way, and then someday your memory will do that for me," Cavanagh shared.