We Are All Just Walking Each Other Home

People walking toward light with the words overhead. We are all just walking each other home

We Are All Just Walking Each Other Home.

Music for the Journey

I enter into the dimly light room. The patient is curled up in the fetal position, his breath ragged, rough with a hint of a rattling sound. Family gather all around the bed. I sit close enough to the patient so I can observe his breath and allow space and room for healthcare workers and family.

Taking my small harp out of its case, I begin to play simply and slowly, paying attention to the man’s breath.  His breathing slowly starts to deepen and even out. Pictures of family and religious art adorn the wall behind him. I chant a simple melody with the word Alleluia over and over. Family members cry and even with the sadness, a sense of peace washes over the room.

Knocking on the door of the next patient, I meet a 93 year old woman in a Memory Care Unit. Opening the door to her room, her face brightens when I take out my harp. She joins me, clapping her hands and stomping her feet, singing along to You Are My Sunshine and Swing Low, Sweet Chariot. The music prompts memories of growing up and she shares stories about her parents and siblings, speaking of them in the present tense.


My sisters Carmen and Madelin in New York bring Kelly (in Australia) and Heather (also in Pennsylvania) and me through their phones to the bedside of our Dad. His long, lanky frame appears diminished in the bed. Surrounded by his wife, children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, he takes short, gulping breaths. His brow unfurrowed and smooth, he begins the surrender of his life, his living, shedding the roles he had in life. Veteran. Teacher. Brother. Uncle. Husband. Father. Grandfather. Great Grandfather. The sound of my voice and harp, playing through my sister’s phone reverberates in the background. When it was inevitable my Dad’s life was ending, I offered what I knew how to do.

Music for this unfolding, this last walk home.


We Are All Just Walking Each Other Home.

Baba Ram Dass eloquently stated this. I picture all of life being this walk home and our longing that is reflected in the poetry of Rumi, the Haiku of Issa, the songs of Leonard Cohen, the paintings of Frida Kahlo and more, is a desire to return to Home.


A dimension of complete, radiant Love from which we came and where we return.  Here, there are no strangers, no separation, only a reunification with God within. Longing guides this journey. Perhaps what we often experience as the sweetness of the ache of sadness, we can meet with curiosity and tenderness. Longing, a sacred part of our psyche, connects us to the hidden wholeness and permeable aliveness in all of existence.

The 13th century mystic Meister Eckhart stated, “God is always at home (within). It is we who have gone out for a walk looking for God.”

Even to witness this in folx transitioning from their physical bodies is to be at the edge of the veil,  the threshold of homecoming, to see and touch the sacred and the grace in dying.

Hearing is one of the last senses to leave.

Music, a beautiful companion for the journey home, serves as a portal here from this life to what lays beyond.


The last time I saw my Dad in person, in lieu of saying goodbye, I sang to him a verse and refrain from a song he taught my sisters and I when we were young, singing and playing his banjo, Waltzing Matilda.

My dad held my gaze and smiled and I felt myself in that moment the pain of this last togetherness and at the same time, the pure joy of myself as a child learning the song, laughing and singing it over and over again with my Dad.  In that liminal space moment, I am both the child experiencing the embodied joy of making music with her father and the 57 year old woman saying goodbye through this song.


The Celebration Mass of my Dad’s life reflected his own love of music from the choir singing throughout the Mass to all the Reflections and Homily mentioning his clear, pleasant tenor voice and ever present banjo. Seeing teacher friends who were musicians inspired many memories of late night hootenannies and song circles. Here, I learned Irish songs, folk songs, silly songs, spirituals and more all by listening and learning. Here, I learned to find vocal harmonies and play with singing. Dad and his sister Olivia together blended their voices effortlessly and we spent hours in the music room in my aunt’s house with cousins singing. Here, I learned to step into music, the means to be in relationship with my own longing, not as something solely to practice for performance, but to dance with my own aliveness and the life force all around me.

At the Celebration Mass, after Communion, My sister Madelin and I sang Amazing Grace, our voices blending and weaving harmonies, accompanied by my small harp. Even in the overwhelm of my own grief, fatigue from the travel and the emotional impact of seeing family and friends also grieving, I focused and listened inward. Hearing Madelin’s voice and mine (and some random person who obviously didn’t know this was a duet!) weaving together, I felt and saw our Dad looking at us through his eyes and beaming. I thought I even heard the twang of his banjo.

Welcome Home Dad.


Note: Rachel Allen is a graduate of Music for Healing and Transition Program Inc

and has worked in hospice as a Certified Music Practitioner for two decades.

Rachel also is a Sound Healer, Community Song Leader and weaves music and chant into Yoga experiences.


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