What is the Mercy Run?

Sometimes “Yes” is the most beautiful word in the world.
Photo: Lynn Johnson

Greater numbers of people across the country call us now to ask if there is a professional music-thanatologist working in their city, or one who can fly in to serve them because someone they know and love is actively dying.

When we are able to provide patient care for these kinds of situations, we call the vigils mercy-runs. These most often entail the swift coordination of schedules between the appointed care givers, the patient, the music-thanatologist, and various providers (physicians, nurses, etc). A mercy run will also require transportation arrangements, flight schedules, hotels, taxis, etc.

Over many years, we have received three kinds of requests for mercy-runs. One kind is for the patient who has some very important time remaining – a month or more – and the situation calls for supportive end of life care for both physiological and inner, emotional and spiritual needs.

A second kind of patient may have the more or less time remaining, is not necessarily experiencing extreme physiological pain, yet has long cherished the ideal of a supported death, a blessed, peaceful or conscious death.

A third kind of request is urgent. The patient is actively dying, there might only be a few days left at most, they might be in pain, and the family or loved ones would like a music-thanatologist to get on the next available plane.

Under each of these kinds of referrals, the length of the stay of the music-thanatologist will be determined through team consultation. At times, I have been asked to do everything from an emergency mercy run to another city for one brief evening, the last night of the individual’s life, or more. At the opposite end of the spectrum, I have been asked to fly to a city for an entire week and to work with the patient and their loved ones on a daily basis. When this occurs, at least two if not more vigils a day can occur or be scheduled, coupled with consult time with family or loved ones.

Any mercy-run requiring air travel entails the purchase of two round-trip tickets, one for the practitioner and the second for the harp. The harp is strapped in the seat of the plane next to the harpist, usually in bulk head loading. Mercy-runs are labor intensive and involve much travel time; you can expect that the individual practitioner will need to charge a per diem (for both travel days and delivery days) and all travel expenses.

When we are able to recommend a professional music-thanatologist who already practices in your city, then the expense of the air fares do not apply.

Please feel free to contact the office at info (at) chaliceofrepose.org if you need a recommendation. Let us know the specifics of your needs. If we are in town, one of the faculty members will reply very quickly.

Last updated Wednesday, 19-Mar-2014