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A Song Before Dying

To celebrate 40 years of caring for our community, we will be sharing stories from the past, and telling new stories that embrace the present and inspire the future. Samaritan is proud of its history and commitment to the community. We hope this look back — and look forward — inspires you to connect with your loved ones, reflect on your legacy, and know Samaritan is here for you.

A Song Before Dying is a moving story from 2006 that shows the power of music therapy and the importance of leaving a legacy.

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The following was written by Michael Vitez and published in the Philadelphia Inquirer on February 23, 2006.

Marcia Glover Banks, 41, prayed for a miracle but dying of cancer, sat on a pillow in a small recording studio on Tuesday.

Her daughters, 14, 8, and 7 – two with braids, all with nervous smiles – stood beside her, lined up in front of microphones on boom stands.

“I feel like Mariah Carey,” said the oldest, Shanice.

Shanice said recently(2020): “My sisters and I feel the whole experience was influential. With the aid of Samaritan our mom showed true strength and leaned on God instead of succumbing to fear.

Each one of us listens every now and then to the song. And although the words do not change, it always seems to give us the guidance we need in any given situation. My sister Andrea, who is now a mom herself, believes the experience has shaped her into the mother she is today.”

Mother and daughters had come to this small recording studio in a Cherry Hill home to record a song they had written together over the last month, a song they had titled “A Family’s Love.”

“It’s not just about when she’s gone, “ said Brooke Carroll, a music therapist with Samaritan Hospice, who suggested the idea and played keyboard, “but a way to celebrate their love for each other now.”

Glover-Banks, a Lindenwold resident and former school board member, was diagnosed with stomach cancer three years ago. She thought she’d beaten it with chemotherapy and surgery, but it reappeared and spread to her lung and liver.

An oncologist told her she’d die within a year, but that was 15 months ago.

“We brought our children up in church with strong faith,” said Glover-Banks, who sand in the choir. “I sat them down: ‘OK, girls, this time the doctors said there’s nothing we can do.’”

Learn more about hospice care >>

 

“We can pray,” said Jasmine, 7.

“You are absolutely right,” her mom told her. “We can pray.”

Glover-Banks is a single mother, divorced. Absent a miracle, her children will go live in Vineland with their father, with whom they now spend weekends.

For now, she manages her household with help from family and Samaritan Hospice, which serves 350 terminally ill patients in South Jersey.

“I govern from my bed – ‘Take your clothes out for school, take a bath…,’ still being strict as a mommy,” she says. Shanice does the laundry. Andrea, 8, takes out the trash. Jasmine feeds the dog.

The music therapist thought Glover-Banks would benefit from writing and recording a song for her children. It would be the hospice’s first venture into music therapy.

“It’s been 14 years since I worked with Marcia and her daughters and I still remember Marcia’s positive, loving spirit. She was an amazing woman, with a strong love of God, who felt blessed for so many reasons even at the end of life.

Marcia was incredibly radiant that day in the recording studio in 2006. And her light shone so bright in each of her girl’s eyes. I remember feeling a deep love for all of them in that moment. What an emotional, significant, and moving time.

I’ve thought about Marcia, Shanice, Jasmine, and Andrea often over the years. I reflect on how blessed Marcia felt and it reminds me to view the world through her eyes — bright, positive, and full of love!” – Brooke Carroll Lemchak, music therapist

Glover-Banks started writing the song herself, but soon included the girls. She sings to them and they respond.

Mother and children cried often during rehearsals at their home over the last month.

At 5 p.m. Tuesday, it was no longer time for tears. It was time to record.

“I’m nervous,” squeaked Jasmine, 7, as they finished sound checks.

“Don’t be nervous,” said her mother. “Now’s the time for fun. It’s show time.”

Carroll opened on the keyboard, with a beat and a melody, and then Glover-Banks sang.

From a frail body came a voice of power and beauty. She sounded like Whitney Houston.

I love you so. I’ll never let go. I love you so. More than you’ll ever know.

She would sing a verse to each child.

Oh, Aunnie, those beautiful eyes, they are so precious, they make me cry.

They look at me, they touch my soul. They touch my heart, they make me whole.

Andrea, nicknamed Aunnie, responded:

I love you, Mommy, I love you so. I love you, Mommy, more than you’ll ever know.

If a look could stop time, freeze a moment, this would have been it.

Glover-Banks was pouring a lifetime of mother’s love into these girls, into this song. They would always have her, always hear her.

Shanice, Aunnie, Jazzie, she boomed.

Love you! They responded.

Just keep on living, just keep on dancing…

We’ll keep on living, we’ll keep on dancing…

Glover-Banks was now ad-libbing. She did not want to stop. After 18 minutes, the song ended.

Steve Shelmire, a musician who had volunteered his home studio to make the recording, played the song back for them.

“I love it,” whispered Glover-Banks.

Asked how she could sing with such power, she answered.

“Let the weak sound strong, let the sick sound well. The joy of the Lord is my strength.”