The journey of 1000 miles starts from beneath your feet.
Lao Tzu, the Tao Te Ching
I almost didn’t go to my volunteer harp time at Hospice today. Didn’t get much sleep. But there was a feeling that I needed to go to see a particular patient. I had played for her twice before and couldn’t stop thinking that we needed to see each other today. When I arrived, she was receiving communion so I played for another for a half hour. This dear man had his daughter with him. She had played piano and we shared a bit about music. From time to time her father would raise a hand in the air and conduct a bit as I played. His daughter rubbed his back and he dozed off. The room felt full of peace.
I went to my summoning patient and her family was beginning to gather and show up. She asked me to come over next to her and we held hands. “Please stay until the end,” she said. “You came. I wanted you to come,” she told me. I shared with her that I felt called to see her today. A friend of hers told me it was God tapping on my shoulder. I told her that I had been so blessed to play for her and what a gift it was to be in her sacred circle at this time. She expressed her delight and smiled and whispered gratitude. Grace — such grace, right to the end.
There was a book titled “The Art of Dying” on the night table.
Friends and family spiraled around the bed. Pain meds were offered and taken and she drifted in and out. I played for two hours: everything from unknown Irish harp tunes to ancient hymns to modes and songs about birds. At one point I played Kum bey ya and her mother and others were singing to her. She asked for a comb and she combed her nonexistent hair (lost to chemo, I imagine). This sweet gesture brought tears to my eyes. Her mother thanked me and particularly loved Dona Nobis Pacem. She told me how beautiful and meaningful the harp music was.
After those two hours, it was time to leave. I had to get home to my dogs and was told, no matter, this would be going on for some time. They understood. I went to my friend and held her hand again and said I’ll see you on the flip side, which made her smile. She said she would blow me kisses as I drove in my car. She kept thanking me. I did not want to leave but my eyes were blurring. I could not clearly see my harp strings anymore and the dogs were sending psychic messages about needing to go out.
To this beautiful woman, who I have held in my heart all day and will forever, I love you. Thank you. And peace be with your gentle and kind family, who so tenderly and quietly were with you, holding you and holding space. I am so honored to have been included and to have given you my humble gift of simple harp music.
Karen believes affordable health care is a right and community acupuncture is a perfect way to bring Chinese Medicine to the people.
Karen Lee DeBraal
500 Main Street, Suite C1
Springfield Oregon 97477