“The Music of My Life”: A Life Review Through Music

By Larry Kinneer
State of the Heart Hospice

Music has always been an important part of State of the Heart Hospice patient Bernis (Bernie) Cassell’s life.  He has sung at weddings and funerals, played musical instruments, and learned and remembered countless songs.  And, all of his five children have followed in his musical footsteps. State of the Heart is in Greenville, Ohio       

It was through a meeting with State of the Heart Hospice Music Therapist Jeannelle Benek that Bernie, 86, came upon an idea that would be similar to a life review.  And, the common thread, he explains, “is music.” He and Jeannelle put their heads together and came up with an idea for a timeline chart called “The Music of My Life.” 

State of the Heart Marketing staff member Jennifer Benedick, who is a talented graphic artist, took the idea and put into a framed chart that now hangs on the wall beside Bernie’s favorite chair at his home in Ohio.           

“I recall various songs from different points in my life,” says Bernie.  The chart, with colorful illustrations, traces his life from his boyhood  to his retirement in 1997.

For his boyhood years, one of the songs he recalls is “Old Shep” by Red Foley.  On his graduation day from high school, he recalls singing “Kentucky Babe.”  His teen years bring back memories of:    “Girl of My Dreams” and “Tune In.”           

Songs that reminded him and his wife Alice rearing their five children: “You Are My Sunshine,” and “Kid” from Bye, Bye Birdie.  In his later years when he was concentrating on his job and the responsibilities of a husband and father, he lists these songs:  “The Lord’s Prayer,” “I Walked Where Jesus Walked,” and “Precious Hiding Place.”

“I always liked songs that were upbeat, religious, happy or romantic,” he explains about his musical selections.

State of the Heart’s Jennifer Benedict comments about her role in the project for Bernie. “It is great being able to use my talent and skills to make a difference in a patient’s life.  It was a challenge to bring the whole concept together in a graphic way that would be meaningful to Mr. Cassell.”           

Bernie’s wife, Alice, stated “The framed chart means so much to him. When he got it, it brought tears to his eyes. He shows it to family and friends, and anyone who stops by for a visit. It is very special to him.”

Jeannelle said, “It is the music of our lives that will be the most powerful to us. Bernie’s musical timeline gave us an opportunity to reflect on some of the most memorable times in Bernie’s life. And, with the help of Jennifer, Bernie now has a tangible account of those memories.”