Music for the Soul

By: Bob Friar, Angela Hospice Volunteer

Like all Angela Hospice volunteers, Phil Ernzen wears an identification badge. But, even without the badge it is easy to spot Phil. He’s the volunteer with a guitar slung over his shoulder.

Phil has been a hospice volunteer in different locations for over 12 years. But he’s been at Angela Hospice for more than two years, offering his very special gift of music therapy to the residents of the Angela Hospice Care Center.

“I just love the experience of volunteering in a hospice setting,” he said. “It’s very, very fulfilling and rewarding.”

If music therapy sounds too clinical, then think of Phil as a musical chef who provides music as a comfort food. His musical menu includes all genres from gospel to country to folk and popular.

The Care Center staff may suggest a resident who would enjoy Phil’s special talent. The resident or perhaps the resident’s visitors may suggest or ask for a particular selection that has special meaning to that person. Then Phil performs that piece or something very similar.

“I’ve meet a lot of really interesting people,” he said. “I get to know about their life story and their family and what they like."

Phil has another identifier besides the badge and guitar and that is a binder full of song lyrics. Besides the one he carries with him there are more back home that he can reference. So, if a resident stumps him and he needs to sing and play a similar piece, you can be sure that Phil will check his library and have the actual piece ready for his next visit.

One of the pleasurable rewards of his unique ministry is being with a previously unresponsive patient, and then seeing movement under the sheets as the patient keeps time with Phil’s music.

“Feeling that you’re making a different in their lives at a very important time -- both the patients and their families or visitors -- is one of my favorite parts about volunteering,” Phil said.

Phil may be rewarded from getting to know patients and their families but Angela Hospice has been rewarded with him being a volunteer. Phil brings peace and comfort to Angela Hospice patients as he shares his special gift with them.

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