My mum, Lydia Nicoll, received palliative care at St. Gemma’s Hospice in Leeds from October to December 2018. One thing that kept her going during her final weeks was The Swan Song Project.
I’m not sure how she came upon the flier about the project but I remember visiting her one day and she seemed really excited as she showed me the leaflet. She said she wanted to record a song and asked me if she thought it was something she could do. I said I thought it would be a great thing to do. She explained that she wanted to write a song that meant something to her and could be shared with her family and friends.
Over the next few visits, my mum talked positively about the songwriting process she had shared with Ben. She showed me her written lyrics and sung me snippets too. Her song was named ‘Appreciate Life’ and is a song about seizing the moment, enjoying the little things in life and appreciating what we have. It’s a beautiful message.
We are quite a musical family so soon my Uncle John became involved too, playing guitar alongside Ben and helping my mum compose further lyrics. He also composed a harmony section. We helped my mum sing the song as well as my sister, Louise, and my Aunt Nadia and Uncle Ricky. My cousin, Daniel, brought his bass guitar along and joined in too. Ben is really open to the idea of other family members and friends joining in the process. The song evolved as different suggestions were made and more family members were involved.
The project culminated in a performance and recording from my mum’s bedside at the hospice. There were a number of family members there to contribute to the recording. It was an emotional performance, but uplifting too.
Since my mum’s death, we have continued to sing her song. My uncle, sister and I performed it at her funeral and we always sing it at family gatherings. My sister and I have also sung her song at a number of Swan Song events, sharing our mum’s message and helping to celebrate the many great songs that have been written since The Swan Song Project was established.
The Swan Song Project is a truly marvellous charity, enabling those (and the families and friends of those) facing death an avenue for sharing their thoughts, feelings, memories, of sharing what is poignant to them during such a dark and frightening time. I cannot thank Ben enough for bringing some light into my mum’s final days.