San Francisco

Music Therapist Comforts Hospice Patients with Song

Music can lift spirits, see people through tough times and foster connections with strangers. Nestled in the hills above Brentwood, one music therapist is taking that connection to a whole new level — using song to help care for terminally ill patients.

"We're working to increase their socialization, reducing their isolation, helping them to process any emotions that come with facing the end," said Levi Josefsson.

The 26-year-old music therapist at VITAS healthcare plays in a rock band by night, but he spends his days singing sweet lullabies to 86-year-old nun Mary Ellen Kowalski, a hospice patient at the Sisters of St. Joseph retirement home.

Josefsson said he knows from personal experience the healing power of music.

"Music has saved my life through many bouts of depression and coping with life in general," he said.

But the friendship between a handsome young rock 'n' roll singer and a feisty, retired nun wasn't a sure thing.

"I could turn over and take a nap instead of having this strange kid singing me a lullaby," Kowalski said.

In time, he won her over with his gentle touch and his love of the oldies, bringing back sweet memories of her youth in San Francisco.

"It really refreshes me, and of course when he does the San Francisco song ... forget it, I'm gone," she said.

And what could be sweeter than facing the end with a friend and a song.

To learn more about the VITAS Healthcare hospice program, visit

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