Hear Us Roar
December 2022 Issue
Pat Keown & Jan Pike — Singing for Eternity
Photography by Cassidy Dunn Photography
Career: Retired Registered Nurse working in Psychiatry, Masters in Social Work with a Clinical License in Social Work. Clinical Social Worker with a therapy practice in Kentucky, and online since 2021
Family: Currently single
Hometown: Born in Texas, but claim Charleston, SC as my hometown; I grew up on James Island.
Current Town: I live in Beautiful Beaufort by the Ocean
Career: Retired Realtor
Family: Husband, Rick Pike; Six grown children, plus six grandchildren in a blended family.
Hometown: Atlanta, GA
Current Town: Beaufort
Life has a way of bringing people together. How did your paths cross?
PAT: I met Jan when she became interested in singing with the Threshold Choir, which thrilled me, because she can make ordinary music beautiful with her harmony. She loved our mission and was a blessing to the choir.
JAN: In late 2016, I was new to Beaufort, renting a place while looking for a home. With my first glance at the newspaper, I saw an ad for the Threshold Singers. They were looking for a cappella bedside singers for patients. I love a cappella singing and to join with people who knew how to give this a purpose, well, I called Pat that day to see how I could join. I was able to be a part of Threshold Singers for around three years before Covid shut things down with hospitals and assisted living homes.
In those three years, Pat and her singers taught me a lot about the power of music to help patients and their families during difficult times and health challenges. When we would sing in the hospitals, we could be requested to sing for a patient expecting bad news, and they would receive good news getting to go home the next day, so we sang more as a celebration. By contrast we would sometimes be requested to sing for a patient who had only hours to live and knew we were largely singing to the family. Often the families would make comments about their loved one’s breathing more relaxingly.
You both have a gift for singing. Tell us how the Threshold Choir came to Beaufort.
PAT: I had been in Colorado working with some dear friends on a video: Voices of Grief, Honoring the Sacred Journey. There, I heard the Colorado Springs Threshold Choir sing and share what they did. My heart was absolutely touched by their mission to offer “sacred lullabies” at bedside to those who were transitioning from this life. The compassion, utter beauty and love which emanated from the singers captured my heart.
I truly felt we needed and could provide the same in Beaufort. There was no Threshold Choir in South Carolina. So I began to ask anyone who came within reach of my extended arm if they had ever heard of Threshold Choir. I explained the mission to them and asked if they would like to join. We formed a choir, began to practice and reached out to the community.
Whenever we sang we would always talk later about how blessed or touched we were by the family and patient. There were times when someone in a coma would begin to tap his/her toe. Her countenance would become more peaceful, and their family would notice and often be brought to tears. The amount of love and peace was palpable almost always to every one of us in the room. We sang in homes, for patients at Beaufort Memorial Hospital, assisted living facilities, in hospice, at memorial services. Several of us went to Mother Emmanuel in Charleston after the horrendous massacre there, and just sang for those in front of the church and on the street.
What is one of the most special moments you’ve experienced singing for someone transitioning from this life?
JAN: There is a sadness as I watch families say goodbye to loved ones, but I have so far been able to stay with the singing because I so want to lift them up for a few minutes. What seems to prevail most for me is a sweet, holy time if one believes as I do, that this earth is not our home and our Heavenly Father is waiting for us.
PAT: We always try to enter a room with our hearts as open as possible; there is great kindness and love in an open heart.
You must experience so many emotions in singing for people at the end of their lives. How do you handle this and not get engulfed in sadness?
PAT: Sometimes one of us might cry and have to recompose ourselves, but we always knew that we were there for one another. Sometimes during rehearsal, a choir member would be sung to by other choir members as we nurtured one another.
What are some of the most requested songs?
JAN: “Precious Lord;” “The Old Rugged Cross;” “I Come to the Garden Alone;” “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”—“If happy little bluebirds fly, above the rainbow, why oh why can’t I?”
When the time comes for your transitioning, what song would you want sung for you?
PAT: I would love to have an African American Gospel group sing any songs of their choosing. I love the Hymn “It Is Well With My Soul” and “I just Saw Jesus.”
JAN: “Turn My Eyes Upon Jesus”—“Look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace…”
How can people request the choir to come sing? Can people join the choir?
So many people are beyond busy these days. How do you fit volunteering into your schedules?
PAT: I try to participate in those things I love and things that expand and touch my life and the lives of others.
JAN: I love singing so much, I have always found some way to work it in. I choose it over other activities. I have to admit, being retired has made it a bit easier to do.
What other things/events have you done with singing?
JAN: For years, there was a subgroup of the Threshold Singers called The Serenity Singers. We would sing on Fridays for Alzheimer's day care ministries. Instead of lullabies, we would sing well-known, lively songs for these folks, all from back in their days. They might not have been able to talk, or know the names and faces of their family members, but they could sing verses of hymns and patriotic songs!
PAT: I began singing when I was 9 years old, so there are all those things from school, high school, college, church choir, choral groups, etc. By far my most beloved experience, though, is the Threshold Choir here in Beaufort.
Do you have other talents, hobbies, interests or specialties?
PAT: I am a Master Gardener, and member of the Beaufort Garden Club. If I told you I am addicted to plants, that would be the truth. I have turned my Battery Shore front yard into a meadow for bees, birds, and butterflies.
JAN: I rollerblade and cycle on the beautiful Spanish Moss Trail here in Beaufort. I enjoy cooking, too.
What are you looking forward to most this Christmas?
PAT: I love the spirit, candle light services, music and absolute joy of Christmas. I love giving to those I don’t even know, where it will make a difference that I might never know about, but which I can feel.
JAN: I’ve lived on a tidal creek in the Lowcountry since 2017. So, our family is enjoying the newness of that, we usually can even work in a Christmas boat ride.
You can hear me Roar about…
PAT: There was instilled in me a “reverence for life” and it still strongly exists. It makes me roar. That is in part what my meadow is about. We are only visitors here on Earth, and we have a need to be great guests to take care of her. As an example, I decided the other day it is time for me to once again buy several recycle bins to take with me whenever I go to a festival here in Beaufort, or any public gathering. Recycling bins are definitely not commonplace at festivals or other events in this city. Back several decades ago I wrote on my stationery, “If No One Believed They Could Make a Difference, No Difference Would Be Made.” I still believe that. We all do make a difference one way or another.