- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 17, 2002

The childhood tune "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" could be just what the doctor ordered when there's nothing else that can be done for a terminally ill person.
Those in charge of making a person's last days comfortable are discovering that Mozart and medicine do, in fact, mix.
Doctors, artists, musicians, scholars and bereavement counselors from around the country got together yesterday at the Washington Home in Northwest for a symposium on "Death, Dying and the Living Arts." The two-day conference, which began Friday, was designed to illustrate how the arts can be used to benefit the terminally ill. The goal is to strengthen the link between the humanities and the health care industry.
"This conference goes back to the loss of my child. Death started my career in medicine people do things in their lives because of their experiences," said Dr. Caroline Wellbery, M.D., an assistant professor at Georgetown University and the force behind the symposium.
"As a physician, I am treating not only a biological specimen but a person with a biography," she said.
The doctor, 48, who resides in Bethesda, said the event was about tapping into the emotional substance of experience. Illness is an experience full of emotion, she said.
Don Campbell, a musician and the author of "The Mozart Effect," played a few bars of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" before explaining to the audience how a simple nursery rhyme can make a dying person reminisce and maybe even smile.
"The song can evoke a memory of a grandparent teaching it to a child. Or, the [dying] person might remember their own childhood," Mr. Campbell, 55, said.
He said the key is to find out about the person. Are they religious? Roman Catholic and 90? In that case, "Ave Maria" makes sense, he said.
"Life is art. It is the artists, musicians, poets and dancers who … help us know the depths of our fear, our joy and our potential," he said.
Lectures, panel discussions and short-film presentations took up much of the morning session. After lunch, the group of 50 split up, attending workshops, among them, "Harvesting Memories, Discovering Last Wishes," a journaling workshop by Nancy Morgan; "Arts for the Caregiver," hosted by artist Helen Orem; and "At a loss for Words? Poetry, Humor and Survivorship" hosted by Georgia Robertson and Amy Robinson, a professor of English at Georgetown University.
Mrs. Orem, one of the workshop presenters, sported a pen on her jacket lapel that read: "Art Saves Lives." She knows this to be true. The fourth-generation Washingtonian works as a consultant to the Lombardi Cancer Center at Georgetown University Medical Center in Northwest. One of her first assignment was to help a grief-stricken widower who had recently lost his wife to cancer. His wife was an artist, Mrs. Orem said.
The two collected all of the wife's artwork and put a show together. The Johnson & Johnson company took the mixed-media exhibit on a national tour, Mrs. Orem said. It helped the husband heal.
"Death may come as an unwanted relative, or at the wrong time, but still we have to let him in," she said.


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