For some hospice patients, learning new things can be difficult. Their brains no longer have the dexterity for assimilating new languages, and their bodies have lost the flexibility for new dance moves. And yet, learning or experiencing something new can bring tremendous delight and a sense of accomplishment and wonder – those qualities that remind us of who we are and how good it is to be alive. This sense of wonder and delight was fully evident in my patient Margaret’s face as she learned to play the Reverie Harp.
Thanks to donors, Hospice of the Northwest spiritual counselors have several of these wonderful little harps available to take to patients and either play them ourselves or allow the patient to literally “play around” and make some music (which is amazingly easy to do since the harps are tuned to the key of G and really any string a person plucks or strums sounds lovely).
The first time I took a harp out to Margaret I thought I’d play softly, providing back ground music for the simple life review we often do together. Margaret, however, had other ideas. She smiled and chirped, “Let me try that.” As a former accountant she is very precise and was not satisfied with randomly plucking the strings, wanting to “play a real song.” Thankfully the harp came with sheet music (easy to follow diagrams) and Margaret dove right in. This spunky 94 year old woman mastered “Amazing Grace” and “Camptown Races” within fifteen minutes. It was such a joy to witness her pride in her ability to learn something new.
Although Margaret’s memory is very poor and she has never remembered my name from visit to visit – or even beginning of visit to end of visit, after playing the harp for 30 min. she said, “thank you, Deana, for bringing the harp.” Her daughter and I looked at each other with jaws dropped. Learning something new and engaging her brain with music not only improved her self-esteem and reminding her of how capable she is, it also improved her memory and quality of life.
So I’m passing on Margaret’s thanks for the gift of a Reverie Harp showing up in her living room every two weeks. I’m tremendously grateful to donors for the ability to purchase them as they are providing delightful opportunities for hospice patients like Margaret to try something new and be amazed by their own capabilities.