Kids Alive, January 19, 2019
With Tony Edelbute, music therapist
There’s sad and glad in every Hallelujah
Kids Alive is a support group for kids ages 6-16 who have a parent with cancer. There are junior volunteers, ages 16-18, young adult volunteers who were kids in the program, and some adults including social workers, oncology nurses, social work students. On this day there were 41 people in the room aging from 6-76 years old. Everyone has had a loved one who had cancer. The age scale, the experience scale includes some kids’ whose parents survived, and their last treatment was years ago, some kids’ parent died of cancer years ago or two months ago.
At Kids Alive, we let kids be kids while we address all the emotions that arise in their lives because, well, cancer. Kids are funny, goofy, moving constantly, quiet, loud, disruptive, deep. Every single Kids Alive session leaves me astounded at their ability to dive deep into emotions and surface immediately to ask for a snack, to swat their sibling, to do cartwheels across the room.
Breathless. The moments I find myself breathless because a child is willing and able to express the profoundness of their losses, their fears when we let them. Kids Alive offers tools like language, images, metaphors to explore the scope of human emotion. These kids, usually far more mature than their age would predict, grasp them like lifelines.
Music Therapy is a favorite session of mine. Tony Edelbute is a masterful, kind, gentle, welcoming therapist. He started this session by assuring us that we are all musicians (insert my internal snort of self doubt here). Each person in turn grabbed an instrument, named a feeling, and “played” the instrument for a few seconds. We heard anger, fear, jealousy, happy, ecstatic, nervous, anxious, meditative, from the sounds of maracas, xylophones, a Tibetan singing bowl, tambourines, a violin and various drums.
After dividing into groups, each group became a “band” that created a song of their emotions. The audience heard their music, shared what the emotions we heard, then each ‘band” shared what they intended. There was no judgment, only personal reflections of each experience mixed in with much praise and thanks in all the comments around each presentation.
In between we had snacks. We love snacks at Kids Alive. This day we had mini-oranges, grapes, cheese sticks and my personal favorite, the really cheap grocery-store brand vanilla and chocolate sandwich cookies.
To close the 2-hour session, Tony planned to play his guitar and sing a few songs with the group from the song list he brought along. The lists were distributed and shared, the kids shouted out which song they wanted to sing. The first song was “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen. We were running out of time so Tony had us sing just three verses. When we finished the last “hallelujah” he asked if we would sing the chorus one more time, after he sang a verse he wrote from what he heard from the kids that morning. It goes like this:
I felt sad, and angry too
I got stressed out, then kind of blue
Then I got scared cuz I don’t wanna lose you
Soon I saw that life runs deep
And others feel a lot like me
There’s sad and glad in every hallelujah
As we sang this new verse for the very first time ever, I watched heads nod “yes” and feet tap to the rhythm. And I wasn’t the only one who was breathless in the sacred moments of singing the words brought up from our loving, scared, confused souls.
With the echo of the last Hallelujah complete, the next song title was shouted out. And we finished by singing a goofy campy ditty called “I’m a Nut.”
There’s sad and glad in every Hallelujah.
You can watch Leonard Cohen performing his Hallelujah here:
You may be more familiar with the version in Shrek:
Download here: Kid’s Alive Newsletter Winter 2016