Monday I went to a nursing home where hospice has a number of people and yesterday I went to the hospital's oncology wing and played my harp at the bedside. I go both places each week. There was one man at the nursing home who has refused my offer for the last 3 weeks. His roommate always asks if I will play for him. As he is not part of the hospice I volunteer for, I move on to find those who are first.
This week my schedule wasn't so rushed so after the refusal, I did sit down and play for the roommate. My back was to the hospice patient. After 1/2 hour, I got up and saw the hospice patient with his mouth open in awe. He couldn't thank me enough.
The nurse caught me in the hall and told me he was a terribly tough nut to crack, that it was so good for him to experience this. She had been in there too, and I didn't know it. I am so glad I had the time and even more grateful for the persistence of the roommate, who I believe was a bit of an angel, unintentional or not.
The hospital's surgical floor gave me 4 rooms wanting harp music in my two-hour time slot. The first was a man possibly leaving that day. His wife was with him and while they very much enjoyed the music, they didn't ever seem to grasp the concept of therapeutic music and kept wondering why I wouldn't go play in the lobby for lots of people. "Because I play for people like you!" I said. They still didn't get it and the wife said it made her sleepy, which I said was a good thing, but she didn't care to be relaxing too much. The second room was a chatty and fairly loopy 92-year-old man and his exasperated son. His son was grateful I was able to "soothe the savage beast" for a little while. The nurse who came in did not want to leave, she said. Next came a quiet little woman who thought ... Read Full Story >>
I almost didn't go to my Hospice volunteer harp shift yesterday. Didn't sleep so well. But I felt I had to go see a person I had played for twice before. When I arrived, she was receiving communion so I played for another for a half hour. This quiet man had his daughter with him and we shared a bit about playing the piano. She rubbed his back as I played my harp and sometimes he conducted in the air. The room was full of peace. When I entered the room of the woman I felt summoned by, she beckoned me to her bedside and said she had been hoping I would come. We held hands. I shared that I felt I could not ignore a message to harp for her today. A friend in the room said God was tapping me on the shoulder. My patient asked if I would ... Read Full Story >>
My little harp and I went to the nursing home today. Two of the people I played for were transitioning out of this world. One was alone except for staff coming in and out. She was not speaking and grasped at the air with her hands. I asked if she would like harp music, not expecting an answer. She did answer! She said: "Harp!" I took it as a command and played for the next 45 minutes. After a bit she stopped clutching at the air and visibly relaxed. By the time I left, one arm was draped peacefully off the side of the bed. The other woman was the jitterbug champ I have played for before. When I arrived at her room, I was informed as to the situation. Her daughter and the rest of the family needed to go out for a 1/2 hour and were very glad I ... Read Full Story >>
On Wednesdays I go to a non-profit group called The Trauma Healing Project and do group acupuncture for those who has been through any sort of trauma. The THP provides low or no-cost services such as acupuncture, yoga, and mindfulness classes.
I began as a volunteer over 2 years ago and now get a little stipend. I love my time there. I get to be completely present for veterans, plane crash survivors, the domestically abused, addicts in recovery and so much more. Each person is a teacher to me. I am in awe of the staff and their deep knowledge and abilities. To be helping there is a thing of great pride for me.
I play my harp at two hospices. One that I play for recently built and opened a magnificent Hospice House. Last Sunday the House enjoyed a community "Light Up a Life" ceremony. People who had lost loved ones could hang a paper ornament with a name on it on a tree and then go outdoors to the gazebo and listen to singers and light a candle. I was honored to play my harp as people gathered indoors and again later as people had refreshments. The best part was when everyone was outside and a resident and his family came into the tree room for a bit. The son asked if I could play polkas and I explained to him that I play in service and am not really an entertainer. His dying father asked if I would play something and I did, for him. He was deeply moved, and thanked me profusely. ... Read Full Story >>
Today I gave two peace doves to a patient of mine and she was so thrilled with them that she told me her and her daughter would make them as a project during their yearly coastal retreat. I was so touched. She told me they always find some artistic project to do and this would be perfect. She loves how they get to fly away and spread joy.
I told her how they might hang at different angles and such, but Kindspring member Mindy told me me that was OK as each has its own perspective. My patient told me she already liked this Mindy person. What a lovely web these doves create.
Nursing home Monday gifted me and my harp with three lovely listeners. I stopped in the room of the quiet and gentle woman I have played for twice before. She was sleeping but I set up anyway as I know she loves the harp. Her room mate was also with the hospice I volunteer for and I asked if she wouldn't mind and maybe she would like it as well. She told me yes, please play but she was going to be weighed soon. The weighing took about 3 minutes. My sleeping beauty slumbered as I played and my other recipient told me over and over how much she loved it and that I was just fabulous. I happened upon another woman, dozing in front of her TV. She told me,"Why sure, I would like harp! C'mon in!" Her TV and her room mate's TV were on (the room mate wasn't ... Read Full Story >>
The orthopedics floor of the hospital presented me with more incredible experiences. I knocked on the door of a room with an elderly Japanese woman in the bed. Her eyes were closed. A caregiver was there and told me "Pease come in and play. She is in so much pain." I played for awhile and the woman's breathing evened out, but then I stopped to chat with the caregiver. This caregiver understood music and sound healing without me having to explain anything. As we talked, the patient eventually began to moan and speak something in Japanese that the caregiver said was gibberish. This was done in a cadence. So I began to play "Flight of the Heron," which was in the same key as the moaning and I played with the same cadence. And then slowed. The woman stopped moaning and began to snore. I have experienced lesser moments like this ... Read Full Story >>
Not so much smoke here this week so I made it to the nursing home with my harp. A lot of people were asleep that morning. I ended up playing for a sweet elder who was hugging a stuffed dog. She smiled and said yes, she liked harping. She would focus on my hands a lot and stare into space, jiggling her dog and petting him. She didn't sleep but kept looking into space and sometimes would smile at me. I asked her if she liked it. Oh yes. She said she would like it if I came back. I next found my elder gentleman friend in his room. He is the one who usually wants some harp. He keeps his door shut and windows open. His room is peaceful and fresh. As usual, I played for a half hour that flew by. This man always shuts his eyes and drifts. ... Read Full Story >>
Last night a neighbor stopped me in the street and waved a piece of paper about. I have a poetry box in my front yard. People can take a poem if they like.
This one was a Celtic Blessing and she informed me that after her walk she would be reading it to her husband who is ill and can't get about much anymore. She is mostly Irish, she told me. Glad to make her smile!
Too many adventures! My father, who is in assisted living, likes to sit in the lobby as there is a fireplace there and he enjoys reading by it and greeting people as they come in and out. He moved a globe that decorates the room close to the fireplace and on a table right next to him. He does this every time. Finally the director asked him why he does that. My dad responded that he is keeping an eye on global warming. My dad taught high school for 30 years and took a course in stand-up comedy so as to better keep the attention of his students. I'd say he's still got it. He told me he will do what he can to talk about global warming to any one who will listen. He sometimes asks about my poetry box so I told him about KindSpring member Mindy's poems and the ... Read Full Story >>
There is another harpist at the hospital where I am doing my internship. I have met and known her from harp events in town. We finally coordinated our schedules so I could do some intern days with her. The first was this last Thursday and I am grateful for all she shared and taught and the support and lack of attitude. It was good to giggle over some challenging situations with another harpist who can be a bit irreverent. She told me it was just fine to pick out hymns in the treble clef only (hymns aren't quite my forte in the talent department) and that is all she does, too. The harp will take care of the rest and simple is good by the hospital bedside. I played for two people that day. One woman requested hymns after I played a song or two. I was queried about my faith ... Read Full Story >>
My little harp and I went back to the Memory Care home yesterday. I hadn't been in a couple weeks as I was feeling tired and adrift -- no feedback from Hospice and not sure how much the patients noticed. The volunteer coordinator called me last week and asked, well, when are you going there again? I replied that I was uncertain if anyone noticed or cared and that I felt very alone in my endeavor. I hadn't heard from Hospice in a couple of months. He became quiet and said, that was his fault. He told me that while the people there may not show response, the staff reports the residents sleep better and are calmer. Two of the men patients had passed, but my three gals were there and wheeled out to sit in a semi-circle while I played. One was asleep, another in some quiet place, but she did ... Read Full Story >>
Down the street from where I live, an elderly, big ol' gentle bear of a man lives with his wife and their dachshund, Stella. We have waved at each other in passing for ten years but never spoke until two days ago. I always wanted to talk to him because he has little grave markers for his dogs in the yard and he even likes the same congressman as me, which is something I found out through a yard sign. My dog, Clary, and I walked by last Friday when the man waved. He was fussing with his rosebushes and he summoned me over, saying that he wanted to give me one of the roses to gift to my husband. He added that he loves to cut them for his wife, and told me that they had been married for 50 years. I told him that my husband Tom and I ... Read Full Story >>
My baby harp and I journeyed to the surgical floor this week. "Come on in!," said the first person, who was going home that day. He had had a successful surgery and he and his wife were very happy. I played quicker, happy music to send them home with songs in their hearts. The room felt like a party.
The second person was an elderly woman and she shared with me that her husband played guitar for their church. She had a slight southern accent and loved all music and hymns in particular. I played "Yes, Jesus Loves Me" and she told me they had the kids in Sunday school sing it first thing. She loved it all and shut her eyes and smiled in delight. She had her curtains open to a view of the woods and river. After I played she said, "Honey, God gave you a gift. Never suppress it. Use it to the fullest." Her words were music to my ears! I left her a dove made out of a hymnal page and she couldn't have been more thrilled.
I played for a younger woman who fell sound asleep to lullabies. I tried to leave quietly and did manage to leave a Mindy dove and a Rajni card by her water.
Hospice rang yesterday. An actively dying man had asked for harp music. I had to go to work, but rang after and he was still alive, still wanting the harp. I found him in a shared room. He was extremely emaciated, with long, wild grey hair, and the gentlest spirit shining out. I asked if he still wanted the music. He could not speak as he had a tracheotomy, but he clasped his hands and whispered, "The Harp! The Harp! Ooohhhhh." Someone had posted notes from those who cared for him all along the wall by his bed. His room mate turned off his TV. As I played, my patient drifted far away. His breathing was almost non-existent. I thought he would pass, but he wasn't there yet. I played for 1 and 1/2 hours and did not want to leave him, but my eyes, back and arms were beginning to tire. When I finished ... Read Full Story >>
Haven't been able to harp this week due to playing catch up with the mundane aspects of life, like going to the dentist. Still not near caught up. But today I was able to sneak a dove and smile card into a patient's purse and I tipped the gas station guy, which he did not expect. Cheered me up to do so, as it has been a challenging week.
My little harp and I journeyed to a memory care facility today and visited 3 hospice patients. The first resident was not verbal but was incredibly engaged with the music. She was up in a wheelchair and smiled broadly while intently watching me and my hands. If I gave a special flourish to a piece, she would laugh. Ambient noise that got loud caused her to look about in a concerned way. I loved every minute of playing for this charming elder. When I left, I waved goodbye and she wiggled her fingers at me, smiling again. I heard the CNA talking to her about the harp and she made some aahhh aahhhh sounds back. Her room mate was also there, but she was not present in a way I could discern. She went from being asleep to very slumped in her chair and her eyes were remote. She did have on ... Read Full Story >>
My father and I have a complicated relationship, full of good and bad. On Father's Day, I choose to honor the good from our history and this year I made him some homemade biscotti (dried apricot with chia, flax and hemp seeds mixed in -- my "hippy" biscotti).
I sent a card with a bookmark of pressed flowers, as he loves to read, some low sugar snacks, and a list of the things he taught me when I was young.
The list included: how to change a tire and my oil, how to use a knife, to love reading and writing (he was an English teacher), to question authority, how to pitch a tent, wash dishes with sand, wilderness survival, how to shoot a 22 and fire off a wrist rocket, to love the wild places, to be interested in the stories and lives of all people, to despise racism, and to follow your dreams.
He told me he cried upon reading my list and said that I had a good memory. I am grateful for these moments.
I knocked on the door of a woman on the oncology floor and asked if she would enjoy some harp music. She said, "Oh yes! Come in!" As I played, she told me she was heavily medicated and that my playing was providing her with visualizations.
She told me I was a "Pied Harper" and we had a string connecting us, and that we were weaving through a crowd that eventually began to follow us. I played ever more slowly and she began to snore with Christ Child's Lullaby. It was a moment of grace for all of us.
Today I played my harp at the hospital for three patients at their bedsides. I played a piece called "Flight of the Heron" for one man. He told me the heron was his favorite bird. He put his tv on a nature channel with no sound as I played.
Another man I played for was a harmonica player. So we had playing "the harp" in common. I watched his blood pressure fall as I played and he fell asleep.
They tell me how grateful they are that I come, but I am so deeply rewarded by serving.
Yesterday was my day off. I had a patient who couldn't make it to my office during the week, and my office is used during my days off by someone else.
So I treated her at my house, which I had stopped doing years ago.This gave me a reason to clean up my former treatment room, which had ecome a receptacle for whatever could get flung in there.
I gave her an origami pig after and she told me she still had the dove I gave her two years ago. And I know she moved twice since then.
Amazing how those doves get around and stick around.