Music makes an everlasting mark on our souls. For one Suncoast Hospice patient, she wished to hear the sounds of the King of Rock n’ Roll – Elvis Presley. She knew and cooked lunch for the legendary superstar and was a big fan.
An Elvis celebration soon was underway with a group from our hospice and the patient at her facility. Daryl “Andy” Anderson, the spiritual care coordinator on her care team, dressed up like the entertainer while teen volunteers presented flowers, blankets, punch and specially-made peanut butter/banana/mayo cupcakes.
“We have some wonderful teens. They give their hearts and souls,” Anderson shared.
Anderson has been a vocalist and self-taught guitarist for 40 years. He lent his musical talents recording a CD of Elvis tunes, which the patient listened to and enjoyed before she died. Her memorial service was led by Anderson.
“That’s what makes hospice special, those ‘God moments’ that touch your heart. I walk away feeling very humble and blessed,” Anderson said.
Loss, Faith and Mission
Born in California and raised in Chicago, Anderson grew up as a Baptist and spent more than 20 years as a pastor in North Carolina and Florida. Then he turned to the hospice mission upon the suggestion of a friend who worked as a hospice chaplain. Before joining Suncoast Hospice four years ago, Anderson completed a Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) program at Tampa General and Morton Plant hospitals, volunteered at North Bay Hospital, mentored other CPE students and worked at Gulfside Hospice.
Experiencing deaths and loss in his own family has helped him in his hospice work.
“I lost my father when I was a teenager, my mom died from ALS at our Care Center Mid-Pinellas and I lost a child who was seven months. I feel like I have a pastor’s heart and I’m able to use those gifts in so many ways at Suncoast Hospice. Not everybody is religious, but everybody is spiritual.”
Spiritual care is an essential part of caring for the whole person. Standing tall with light hair, a deep voice and a big smile, Anderson comes down to a personal level when caring for the patients he visits at the facilities. Many are seeking peace as they question their lives and confront their fears, and he helps open the door to who they are and what’s most important to them.
“It’s all about the patients and being present for them. I really enjoy that one-on-one interaction and giving them support and encouragement. Everybody has a story. I can ask them about where they grew up, sports, family, work life or relationships. Most important is making that relationship and connection. I want people to know they have purpose and meaning to the very end of their lives,” Anderson explained.
He listens with his undivided attention and offers words of inspiration to his patients.
“I want them to talk about how they’re feeling and how they’re relating to the world. Many are facing isolation, regrets, unfinished business and extending or receiving peace with God and other people. Some ask, ‘Why am I still here?’, ‘Am I still loved?’ or ‘What’s going to happen to my family when I die?’ Others want to confess. It’s very cathartic. I try to give them hope that they don’t need to be afraid because God is with them and people are praying for them,” he noted.
Many interventions are used to support his patients.
“For patients, I might hold a hand, fluff a pillow, sing a song, read scripture, do a prayer or take them out for a walk. I tell them their lives are important and they are loved and not alone. They also may choose to be connected to their sources of spiritual strength. They may want Catholic priests to come out for anointing or Jewish rabbis to come out for blessings.”
Creating comfort and joy with his music is a special intervention in his care.
“One of the things many patients like is music. It can help them connect to the world. I’ve had wonderful experiences singing an old, familiar song they grew up with and sometimes they start mouthing the words or singing along with me. If they have a favorite song, I’ll do it. I’ve had requests for ‘Free Bird’, ‘You are my Sunshine’, ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’ and others. I always keep my ears open for what the patients like, whatever’s most meaningful to them,” he shared.
Challenging and Rewarding Work
Fellow team members, facilities’ staff and residents and patients’ families also receive Anderson’s support.
Anderson shared, “Our hospice has a good culture of encouraging each other. We have an awesome team that works so hard and are in tune with our patients and families. In our team meetings, I do reflections to inspire and encourage them. I try to be a presence for staff and residents at the facilities doing memorial services or presentations. A lot of family members are working during the day, and I try to call them after visits and they’re so grateful I was there for their loved ones. When I’m called to a patient’s death, the family may be there grieving, but they’re able to tell me more about their loved ones and that helps them remember and give me insight for the memorial services.”
Over the years, he has worked with patients very young and old. The oldest was 108 years old and the youngest was a 14-month old baby. His work can be emotional but fulfilling.
“There are so many facets to being a chaplain. It has been a life-changing ministry at Suncoast Hospice. I enjoy the spontaneity of the work. I love the diversity and meeting people from all walks of life. It’s so refreshing to listen and learn about their cultures and backgrounds. It makes me a more complete person. They (our patients) kind of steal my heart and when they die, it’s hard. I look back and say, it was an awesome relationship. I feel like I made a difference in their lives.”
Hear Anderson play
Click this video to hear Anderson’s music.
Suncoast Hospice is Here for You
If you or your loved one need support dealing with an illness, call us at (727) 467-7423. You’re not alone.