As part of the spiritual care team at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center in Southwest Portland, music thanatologists offer a unique kind of healing to patients and caregivers. Music thanatology is the practice of using music, typically the harp, to comfort critically ill and dying patients. While music thanatologists at St. Vincent are not able to play in most patient rooms right now, they are comforting doctors, nurses and other caregivers.

“I try to read the atmosphere and read the energy that’s in the area, and then just put together some kind of supportive, and hopefully it’s beautiful, music,” said Laura Moya of her music — which is a calm background melody in bustling halls and a soft counterpoint to the units’ bright computer monitors.

COVID-19 has brought fear for those whose jobs mean they are exposed. “Staff are not only afraid that they might catch something, but afraid that they might take something home to their families,” said Cindy Lorion, nurse manager.

Lorion praises the harp in St. Vincent’s halls. “I think [Moya] just being beside us, walking with us, providing such a calming attitude, makes such a difference in our day.”

That’s Moya’s aim. “I want to be this very unobtrusive, kind of behind the scenes supportive care,” she said.