Patricia – Harpist

I have been volunteering at Calvary Kogarah for nearly five years now and for the last year, I have been fortunate to be able to share the ‘reverie Harp’ with patients and their carers. There have been many special moments with this beautiful small harp, but one, in particular, touched me in a very special way. Music transcends languages and cultures and enables us to communicate beyond words.

It has been moments like this that have enriched my life and made volunteering at Calvary such a worthwhile and experience.

Her song lives on

Verna was lying quietly in bed, her blue eyes wide open, staring at the ceiling, when I knocked on her door and entered the room with the small Reverie Harp.  She turned to greet me and was immediately intrigued by the harp.

When I offered to play some soft music, I could feel her relaxing in the bed, with a gentle smile and a far- away look as she listened.  I then offered her the harp, to play it if she wished, and she readily took up the offer and thoroughly enjoyed strumming the harp and making beautiful music, like ‘the sound of a gentle waterfall’  she said.

“I just love that music. It is so soothing and relaxing and it takes me to another place… You know, I have prepared my funeral, but I need some special music to play while the photos of my life are being screened on the wall. I’d love to have that music for my funeral! Would it be possible?”

“Would you like us to film you playing the harp or would you just like us to tape the music?”

“Oh it would be great for people to see me playing this harp, so that they will know that I am OK and ready to go. I don’t want people to be sad when I die!”

Here was a dying woman’s wish, and somehow I felt it was so important for her, something she wanted to share with her family and friends.

When I checked with Anne-Marie, we couldn’t get the communication expert to film it that day, so the next best thing was to try to do it as a video on my I-phone. However the sound didn’t come out strongly enough, but by that time I returned, one of the volunteers (Maread) was gently massaging Verna’s feet and she was able to film on her more up- to- date iPhone with a good sound while Verna smiled peacefully as she played.  Later, we were able to email it to the communication expert who was then able to put it in a suitable form to be shared with her daughter and family. It was a real group effort to make sure that Verna’s dying wish was fulfilled!

The following week, Verna was still in hospital, and once again, eager to play the harp. She loved looking at the film clip on the iPhone, telling me, “Everyone in my family will want a copy of this!” Indeed, the family was so grateful for this precious memory of their mother, sister and friend. The following day, she died peacefully.

And so her song lives on…

Patricia volunteers at Calvary Health Care Kogarah public hospital in Sydney, NSW

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