One afternoon last month, Chaplain Michael Ntow, DMin, of Dover, visited a patient, Gerald Williams, and his wife, Carolyn, at the Delaware Hospice Center in Milford. Pulling a chair bedside, he asked if Gerald would like to hear some music. Gerald nodded his head, softly smiling. As Chaplain Michael began to strum the guitar and sing the Williams’ favorite hymns, his wife sang along and Gerald mouthed the words. Carolyn said, “We love his music and feel so uplifted after his visits.” As he was leaving, Gerald quietly asked, “Will you visit every day?”
Michael Ntow carries with him a rich cultural and educational background as he serves patients and families as a chaplain on a Delaware Hospice care team.
Born in Ghana, he lived in different parts of Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States, and, finally, settled in Delaware.
Extremely well educated in more than one discipline, his more recent degrees include a Doctor of Ministry and a Master of Divinity from Oral Roberts University, Accreditation for Clinical Pastoral Education, and an MBA in Management Finance from Dallas Baptist University. Michael said, “I believe that you should study a field well, in order to perform to the best of your ability. What’s the difference between a butcher wielding a knife and a surgeon with his scalpel? Education!”
Michael began his ministry as the Pastor of a Church in Virginia. He said, “Then in 2007, our lives changed drastically. My wife was diagnosed with a brain tumor, impairing all physical activity. This situation brought many struggles to us as a family, but out of it came a calling and an opportunity for me to move into the field of Clinical Pastoral Education. I had just completed my residency at Christiana Care Hospital when I discovered the opening at Delaware Hospice and joined them as a Chaplain in the Dover office.
Music has always been important to Michael. Even when serving as a teacher years ago, his favorite activity was to bring his guitar into class and sing with the young students. He said, “When I began visiting patients, I didn’t take my guitar for the first visits. Now I carry it with me always; and if person is interested, I play.”
Michael discovered during his visits that many people were musicians in their past; and now that they can no longer play or sing, they miss it. He said, “When I play for them, it’s an awakening and a connection.”
He said, “I have found music to be a medium that brings spiritual peace to patients–even those in distress have been soothed by music. Every song I sing has been requested by the patient or family member. For Christians, it might be hymns or worship songs. I have sung songs of choice to Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim families. Some may prefer songs with particularly meaningful lyrics, like “The Rose.” They might ask for a song I don’t know, but I find the music and play it for them on the next visit. The thick binder I carry now contains music which has all been requested by my patients over the years.”
The Chaplain has seen incredible transformations through his music. One day he went to visit a new patient in a nursing home. The skeptical staff there warned him, “This patient doesn’t like African-Americans, men, or anyone with an accent.” Chaplain Michael said, “So I went in the room with three strikes against me. I spoke with her a bit, and asked if it would be okay to sing a song. As I began singing the song of her choice, she joined in and sang along with me. We had a nice visit; and, as I was leaving, she asked if I would come back again. The facility’s staff was stunned! Music has a way of transcending prejudices, as well.”
Music was an important part of the life of Delaware Hospice patient, Dorothy Williams, from Magnolia, who sang in a choir for many years. Mrs. Williams looks forward to Chaplain Michael’s visits. “I’m so glad to have him come over,” she said. “This becomes my quiet time. I listen and I reminisce about the past, I think about this home I’ve lived in for 53 years, and just feel so thankful for everything that I have.”
One of his most memorable patients was a Christian woman who had married an atheist. Through the years, when taking her family to Church had caused too much trouble at home, she gave it up. Now, years later, she had become a Delaware Hospice patient and Chaplain Michael went to visit her. He said, “When I heard her story, I asked if I could sing something from her past. She named a hymn that I didn’t know, but I promised to learn it for her. I got the lyrics, practiced, and went for another visit. As I sang it for her, tears poured out of her eyes. She said, ‘Okay, instead of one visit a month, can you come twice?’ Then one day, she asked, ‘My son plays a little guitar. Can you come every week to help him?’ So I helped the son, who learned this favorite song of his mother’s and was then able to sing it for her at her request, until she passed away. This was one of my best memories.”