Harpist plays for the dying

2013-01-06T00:00:00Z 2013-01-07T09:04:06Z Harpist plays for the dyingBy ROB ROGERS rrogers@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

From a soft, purple fabric bag next to a purple music stand, Daisy Eddy, wearing purple-rimmed glasses and deep purple-dyed hair, pulled out her wood harp and began to play. 

The music was clear and light, and it floated all through the sitting room at RiverStone Health's Hospice Home off Shiloh Road. 

"It's a holy space," she said. "It's an honor to be invited, to be part of that process."

That "process" is death. Eddy plays her harp once a week at the hospice home to offer comfort through music for those at the home preparing to die.  

Eddy has volunteered for hospice care for more than a decade. In the early days she had a full-sized keyboard she would carry with her, playing old hymns and uplifting music on her visits.

But the keyboard was awkward and for some time she had her mind set on something else.

As a young mother and then grandmother she'd helped her children and then her grandchildren learn the piano -- she is an accomplished player herself.

"I played the piano and organ for a million years," she said.

She realized after helping everyone else learn to play an instrument, it was her turn to take lessons and she had always been curious about playing the harp.

So she signed up for lessons and for the last eight years she's been playing all over the city, including for hospice care. 

"My piano gathers dust," she said. "This is more satisfying."

Playing the harp is nothing like playing the piano, she said. In fact, she added, it probably would have been easier to learn to play had she not known how to play another instrument first. 

The transition from keyboard- to harp-playing at the hospice home immediately made sense. 

"A piano is clangorous in this setting," she said. Pointing at her harp, she said, "this is soothing."

Eddy is known well in hospice circles. She volunteers at the home but also goes on home visits for those who want it. 

"I'll go wherever," she said. 

Through her volunteering, she's been close to death in a unique way. And, in part, that's why she volunteers. The music she plays not only soothes the hospice patients, but it calms the family and even the staff working at the home.

"Dying is a part of life," she said. "So we expect that. I feel at peace with it."

Becky Meisenheimer, the community relations coordinator for RiverStone Health Home Care and Hospice Services, sees Eddy's service as an essential part to what they offer.

Hospice care is still a type of care, she said.

"It's just palliative care instead of curative care," she said. 

A big piece of that type of care is comfort and Eddy's harp goes a long way toward making the patients feel comfortable, Meisenheimer said. 

The music brings hope -- hope that the patient will pass peacefully and comfortably, where family members and staff are calm.

"There's different kinds of hope," Meisenheimer said. "And the music is comforting to the family and the patient."

Eddy gets something out of the music, too. 

"You need an instrument that's softer," she said. "And the vibrations reach a cellular level."

Those vibration reach her just like everyone else who hears the music. And so she also finds healing in her own playing. The color purple, in fact, plays into that.

It's a relaxing, soothing color, she said. 

"And I really like it," she said, smiling. 


Copyright 2015 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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