I'd finished up my entry when my cell phone went off. I've had my phone in my pocket more than usual these days because my best friend's mother recently entered the last stages of dying and I wanted to be sure I was there for her. I glanced at it and, sure enough, it was my friend. Her mother was starting the last of the shutting down process and it wouldn't be much longer. I thought about what I could say. Honestly, what can you really say at such a time? This isn't a Hallmark moment. I did remember the hospice nurse telling my mother to keep talking to my grandmother as she died - that hearing was the last to go. So I asked my friend if she had brought her harp, if she was playing her mother out. She said no, there had been no time. So I offered to bring mine and play her out. Then I went and played my big harp - just playing. The cell phone went off again. Would I come and play for her mother and sit with her? And I did, although I've never done such a thing before. I quickly tuned the travel harp, packed the car and left for the nursing home.
I didn't quite make it. Her mother passed before I got there, but I played for them both. I must have played for over an hour. I wanted to play well for them, but my hands were shaking - I get performance anxiety really badly. I missed notes. I didn't have time to trim my nails and I buzzed strings. But this wasn't a concert. This was a way of bringing peace to both of them. My friend asked for tune after tune, most of which I'd never played on the harp. Years of classical piano training and theory stood me in excellent stead. I got through with basic tunes and simple accompaniments.
After my friend asked me for every tune she knew her mother loved, she was ready to let her go - or at least to begin. I took her out to lunch while the hospice nurse prepared her mother for her last journey. On the way back, my friend asked if I could stay with her while they took her mother's body away, which, of course, I did.
I learned an amazing amount from the hospice nurse. The best thing to do at such a time is to simply be there. This man has the gift of silent presence, which means more, I think, than any grand words or pithy sayings.
And so I'm wondering. Is it time to leave the techie, busy world and play people through their transitions? Harpists frequently play at nursing homes. Is that what I'm supposed to be doing?
Will the circle be unbroken
By and by, Lord, by and by?
There's a better home a'waiting
In the sky, Lord, in the sky.