This profession is the very embodiment of "unique." Life and death are partners, yet we spend very little time thinking about the way in which we, or our loved ones, would want to die. "At peace" is the most common refrain. But what does being at peace feel like, look like, or sound like?
For Therese Schroeder-Sheker, it sounds like a harp. Schroeder-Sheker is a professional harpist and soprano who spent time in her 20s working as an orderly in a nursing home. As she watched patients pass away, often without dignity or comfort, she intuitively conceived of a new method of palliative care called "prescriptive music," using harp and voice to respond to the many physical changes that accompany death [source: Schoeder-Sheker].
Practitioners of prescriptive music call themselves music-thanologists — "thanology" being the scientific study of death. In their bedside vigils, music-thanologists employ music not as a distraction, but as a soothing response — a "cure" even — to the physical pains and emotional anguish of a sick or dying person.
What makes music-thanologists truly unique is that they all play the harp. And why? On her website, Schroeder-Sheker says it has nothing to do with the classical image of harp-playing angels, but with the portability and polyphonic range of the instrument.