Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Beat of Life and Death

I used to think of my car as an island of good tunes in a sea of pop-y nonsense. The car used to be home to Dylan and the Dead, the Stones and the Talking Heads. Since my child got old enough to have an opinion, I would pay to hear Lloyd Price and sitting through a Smokey Robinson tune would be a miracle. Nowadays Hugh cries if he can’t listen to the ubiquitous songs, the Katy Perry and Taylor Swift anthems which are spread thin across every platform from radio to TV commercials. The top forty garbage that lays like a blanket over the media world, the songs we are subject to hear a hundred times a day. It’s a shame but no surprise Hugh likes this stuff. Humans are designed to be drawn to the familiar. The average heart beats between 60 and 120 beats per minute. This is the cadence of the quickening rhythm of life. I have been told that nearly every popular piece of music, every tune that resonates with large swaths of the population, matches this magic rhythm of 60 to 120 beats per minute. Something happens to us when we hear music with this beat, a familiarity as the outside matches the inside; the harmony of the heart and human experience, the beat and the body, overlap. Music that lands in that mystic 60 to 120 beats per minute, is the anthem of life, and that draws us to it. A dying person’s heartbeat can become erratic and chaotic, prone to sudden changes and shifts, the rhythm out of sync with that song of life. The heartbeat of the dying is dissonant, less the polished notes of a symphony and more the harsh wail of a car alarm. While the sweet spot of 60 to 120 beats is accessible to all, the heartbeat of the dying is in not nearly as familiar, not nearly as pleasing. The heartbeat of the dying is not a top 40 pop song, it’s Miles Davis not Britney Spears. We are drawn to the comfortable, fall easily into the simple and familiar, but we can find a strange beauty in the eerie, erratic rhythm at the end of a life. The song of death can carry a meaning and power all its own. Our task is to smooth out the shrill notes, to make sense of the noise. When we do our jobs right, when things go as we wish them to go, our patients and families can find meaning in the end of a life. We can help people move confidently along the rhythm of death. It is our blessing and our charge to help our patients and their families to find beauty in the final heartbeats, and music in our last moments.
Google image search

No comments:

Post a Comment