Music In Hospice

Every week I go into Hospice to play for patients, never knowing what to expect. At first it seemed awkward and selfish, in a way. Families and dear friends are visiting loved ones during a critical time, and I knock on the door asking to take some of those precious moments away.

Sometimes I'll get a "no thank you," so families and friends can spend the remaining time left. Other times I get to play, and hopefully help create new memories during the final days. Unbeknownst to me, it happened in a beautiful way recently.

A few weeks ago I went into Hospice to play for a patient and performed Edelweiss in a room full of family, a therapy dog, and Hospice staff. It was a beautiful yet heartbreaking moment. After playing, I was asked to play, when the time came for the funeral. Well, today I provided music during the wake, and again I wasn't sure what to expect.

One by one, someone from the family or a dear friend came up to me while I played and asked if I was the person who had played for the person in Hospice. Another family member stopped me in the hallway and said that my playing in Hospice had meant so much to her sister-in-law. I didn't know how to respond but managed to say thank you. I knew that wouldn't suffice, so I said I was really thankful to have been able to play music that she had requested like "You Raise Me Up" and "Ave Maria." With tears in her eyes, this sweet lady whom I had never met gave me a hug and thanked me for the music. In that moment, I thought about my time in Japan and how I would play Japanese folk tunes. After the music, those in the Japanese community talked to me as if I were a friend and no longer a stranger.

Towards the end of the wake I wanted to end with Edelweiss, but before I could begin, another long-time friend had approached me and said she had something important to say. She shared with me that during the final hours of her friend's life, she talked about seeing her dog in heaven and how much she enjoyed the heavenly music. That she mentioned me and my music. Over and over again she spoke of the heavenly music...There I sat with my violin in disbelief. Her friend said that in our final moments, our needs and thoughts become so simple -- yet during those precious moments, she felt it was important to talk about how the music had impacted her.

Yesterday was the end of a beautiful adventure. I was able to play at the funeral service for the Hospice patient who had passed away.

I felt welcomed by the family and no longer a stranger who had gone to play for their mother a few times in Hospice. At the end of the service I played Edelweiss before the casket was to be transported to the burial site. In that moment I truly felt as if I were an instrument being used to help say goodbye.

I walked to the burial site with the husband and priest -- through rain blowing sideways -- but I was determined to play underneath the tent, where her body would reach its final resting place.

There I stood, underneath the tent with violin in hand as I watched the pallbearers slowly bring in the casket. The priest said a prayer and gave me a nod to play..I took a deep breath, and for the final time I played Edelweiss.

Today was a day that I'll never forget. I never thought playing in Hospice would bring me this adventure, but I'm thankful and pray for peace for the family.