Creating Healing Harmonies and Heartfelt Moments at Midland Care

At The Hospice House at Midland Care, healing harmonies and heartfelt moments fill the air, thanks to nurses Dorothy Kurtz and Emily Hester. They bring comfort through their performances, and their music provides emotional and spiritual solace to patients and families, offering moments of peace during challenging times and transforming the hospice experience with beauty and love.

Dorothy Kurtz, RN, and Emily Hester, RN, Midland Care

Patients at The Hospice House at Midland Care can sometimes hear angels singing and playing beautiful instruments. Those uber-talented angels are Dorothy Kurtz, RN, and Emily Hester, RN.

Hester played the French horn in college and learned to play “a little” guitar in 2015 and the mandolin in 2019.

Kurtz began playing the autoharp when she was fifteen, the ukulele in 2013, and the guitar in 2018.

Hester finds beauty in music, being able to touch people’s emotions.

 “Music can touch people on a different level than words. Death involves spiritual and emotional realms, and music can transcend the physical realm that we are used to working in and reach people on that emotional and spiritual realm,” said Hester. “Words can only go so far. It is also very comforting for families for us to sing to them. It can be another moment when they feel loved and cared for by the Hospice House team.”

Kurtz loves the connection that music has.

“The impact has been significant because it just adds that special, personal, and human touch only music can provide,” she said.

While every moment is special, some especially stand out.

“Music can touch people on a different level than words.”


“The first was when we sang to a nonverbal patient who had not had a family visit, and she had some tears coming to her eyes. I believe we reached her in a deep way and let her know we cared very much for her and her experience and that she was not forgotten,” said Hester. “We had another patient we played for who was very lonely a lot of the time. We learned from her family what her favorite songs were and sang for her. We had another patient who taught us a song called “Red Roses for a Blue Lady,” which she started singing when she saw the memorial roses we have at the House. She always loved to sing that one with us.” 

Since death, unfortunately, has no age limit, they have also sung for people whose lives have been cut extremely short.

“There have been times when families join in on a song such as “Amazing Grace.” I recall a special time when Emily and I sang “Amazing Grace” at the bedside of a young man who had died,” said Kurtz. “His Pastor was there along with maybe 15 family members. We started the song and then invited everyone to join us. Everyone, including the Pastor, sang through their tears.”

The music is not only for the Hospice patients but also for their loved ones.

“There was also singing at the death of a patient who had been at the House for many weeks. We had all grown so close to his family, and they gathered around him as we played and sang. They even started dancing with our aide Michele,” said Hester. “The patient’s dad told me later about how, in that moment, he was able to have a feeling of joy and peace and that even though it was such a difficult loss, he felt some hope that moment. We played “Amazing Grace,” “You Are My Sunshine,” and “Three Little Birds” for them.”

They’ve even had people who have lost their cognitive abilities sing with them.

“Another special memory for me was when we cared for an individual with dementia. She had lost her ability to communicate with words, and she would resist all nursing care, hitting, scratching, etc.,” said Kurtz. “One day, Emily and I started singing “You are My Sunshine” as we provided nursing care. She calmed down and began mouthing the words. It became routine for the Hospice House staff to sing to her during all nursing care. We love to play for folks who have no visitors. We want them to know we really do care about them as a person.”

Kurtz and Hester are working to expand their list of songs.

“We get together from time to time on our days off to practice. We keep a ukulele and a mandolin handy at the House, and anytime we have a day that permits it, we take a few minutes to play a song or two in one of the family gathering spaces, or we choose a patient and family whom we know need some additional love and support,” said Kurtz. 

It is not every day that nurses break out singing and playing musical instruments.

“Feedback from other staff has been really fun. It surprises our colleagues when we pull out our instruments and start singing to them. It definitely brings smiles and laughter,” said Hester. “We have fun doing it together, which helps us have a great day at work.”

Hester made sure to mention volunteers also bring musical talent to The House. “We have a volunteer named Tom, who plays violin on every holiday, and he goes into rooms and plays requests if patients ask him to. He has touched so many people with his beautiful gift of music,” said Hester. “We also have great volunteers and vocalists; Dr. Phillip Olsson, Layla Sullivan, Nancy Buckingham Harms, and Jerry Espinoza, who works as a House Parent, joined us for a Christmas sing-a-long this year, which was fun during the holidays. We have a lot of wonderful music happening at The House, which is one of the many things that makes it a very special place.”

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