Gross Makes CD For Memorials

LONGMEADOW — Donalyn Gross, who has worked as a death and dying counselor for 26 years and a professional musician for 34 years, is combining those skills to care for the dying and comfort the loved ones of those who have died.
Gross, who visits nursing homes and other facilities to sing and play harp at the bedside of dying residents, has now recorded a CD of piano and vocal music for use at memorial services.

The 11 songs represent a wide range of 20th-century standards, as well as a few spirituals. Selections include “Amazing Grace,” “Nearer My God to Thee,” “Goodbye My Friend,” “The Rose,” “In My Life,” “Let It Be,” “Let Us Cling Together,” and “My Heart Will Go On,” as well as instrumental takes on “Over the Rainbow,” “The Way We Were,” and “Morning Has Broken.”

Gross is the originator of a program known as “Good Endings,” whereby she coordinates volunteers at care facilities to give 24-hour comfort to patients and residents who are at the very end of life. Music can be a part of that effort, she said, adding that she has taken courses to earn certification as a music practitioner.

The piano-based music Gross offers for memorial services is different from the harp music used at a bedside. The harp music is improvised and played arrhythmically according to the patient’s breathing pattern in an effort to gently ease the transition from life to death. The memorial songs, on the other hand, are meant to evoke memories and pay tribute to the deceased.

The CD can be used in other settings as well, Gross added, such as for premature babies in intensive care or during chemotherapy. For more information, call (413) 733-8592.

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