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Hospice harpist plays to help bring life to patients

Hospice harpist plays to help bring life to patients

Patty Harrington has a gift that was inspired by one of her own students.

"I'm a retired teacher; and my fifth graders, one of them brought in her harp one day to play something for her French class. I sat there and I watched her and I said, 'If she can do that, I can do that.'" she said.

That was 18 years ago when Patty started playing the harp. She found the sounds were soothing after a stressful day in the classroom. It gave her peace that she decided others might enjoy.

"They'd done studies that music, especially harp playing, had a positive effect on patients in hospitals and nursing homes; lowering blood pressure, just calming them down," she explained.

Chad Abbott's mother is a Covenant Hospice patient.

"We're all feeling so much anxiety right now, so your music, it just helps smooth that out," he said.

Patty started playing in nursing homes and now every Thursday she brings her harp and claims a little space on the Covenant Care Hospice unit. The comforting tunes waft along the corridors and into the rooms of patients at the end of life, like Chad's mother.

"My mother, Debra Miller, was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer in late December of last year. She now has end stage lung cancer that's spread to her brain," he said.

At such a difficult time, Chad said not only the patients, but their families also find a special healing in these whispered melodies that speak volumes.

"Music says something that our words can't say. There's something in music that touches people's hearts and souls; and it can't be spoken," Chad said.

Patty said sometimes there are particular songs that speak for the families.

"Some of them ask me to play certain things for them. And if it just can bring them some peace and comfort, that's all I really want to do," Patty said.

And Patty gets great joy in bringing the music here. It is her gift to the hospice mission to add a little life to days, when days can no longer be added to life.

Chad said it's a priceless gift.

"The service that she's providing, you can't put a dollar sign on that; you can't measure it. It's just, it's really just love," Chad said.

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