|art by Sulamith Wölfing|
THIS was in today's New York Times.
And since my head has been rising higher and higher into the clouds these past several weeks, I honestly can't remember if I've blogged about the music therapy hospice has provided for my mom Forgive me when I tell you I was skeptical at first, but when the nurse told me a harpist would be coming to play for my mom, I envisioned something hokey. Please don't let her be wearing an angel costume was the wish that kept circling through my head. I was more than a little bit relieved when a woman wearing ordinary clothes showed up at the door.
The harpist has visited us four times now. Sometimes she brings a large harp and sometimes a smaller one with a set of bells and gongs. My mom sits in her chair at the dining room table since it's usually around lunch time. I lie across the room on the couch and the harpist sits between us, a bit closer to my mom than to me. She talks to my mom between songs and my mom talks to her. I remain silent unless my mom gets confused about something she wants me to straighten out--like whether he twin sister has been dead for one year or two, or if I was already living in California when my father died. These brief conversations are far more lovely than they sound. While there is talk about the dead, there's also talk about love, and about the different places my mom has lived in her 90 plus years on this planet.
I didn't know that harp and vocal music woven into end-of-life care was actually a formal discipline called thanatology until I read the article in this morning's Times. My awe and respect for our harpist's talents is now even deeper. At some level, I think I understood the depth of the experience from the beginning because I chose to do nothing but listen from the moment that very first note was plucked. I'm not quite sure why. It would have been more like me to hover near by, quietly folding laundry or to use the presence of another person in the house as an excuse to slip upstairs to my room. But after introductions were made that first day, I fluffed up the pillows on the couch, stretched out facing the water, and closed my eyes.
The music is mostly instrumental. But twice now the harpist has played and sung that old song by the New Christy Minstrels. The first few lines are pretty good instructions for living.
Today, while the blossoms still cling to the vine
I'll taste your strawberries, I'll drink your sweet wine
A million tomorrows shall all pass away
'Ere I forget all the joy that is mine...today