I began playing my small harp in the hallway at the Genesis Hospice House, while visitors and guests were coming and going from various patient rooms. An elderly woman down the hallway poked her head out of one doorway soon after the harp music started. She smiled acknowledging me, then disappeared back into the room. This “grandmother” figure then walked through the same doorway holding the hand of a young toddler boy who looked approx. 2 yrs old. The woman was coaxing him to follow her by saying, “Come hear the pretty music.” Of course the youngster playfully tried to run the opposite direction, as all toddlers do. A second woman, appearing to be the young boy’s mother, followed closely behind as if to help control the unruly child. She took hold of his hand and gestured to me playing the harp saying, “Listen, listen, do you hear that? It sure is beautiful isn’t it?”
This was the defining moment the toddler discovered the music. In determination he led both women toward where I was sitting and locked eyes on the harp with the sweetest smile. I began to play the familiar song, “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” as he listened with curiosity and intrigue. His father now had joined us standing behind the boy with both women. The adults were focused on the reaction from the young child to the music. They appeared to be in disbelief that the toddler was so content and shared, “Well, I guess he likes music!” The young boy stood quite close to me transfixed, engaged with the sound of the music and nothing else. His entire body stood perfectly still for the next several minutes. Anyone sharing time with a toddler realizes the miracle in this!
As I began to play another children’s song, “The Eensey Weensy Spider,” the young boy mouthed the words quietly with me in simple recognition. His eyes sparked with sheer pleasure and contentment. The adults tried to control their own tears as they witnessed how the music transformed the small child. They thanked me warmly and literally had to carry the child away as he rebelled against leaving the harp music.
What I witnessed was a family that was able to experience joy in the midst of dealing with intense sorrow. I later found out the child’s grandfather was actively dying and they had all come to say their difficult “good byes.” For a few moments they were able to feel relief through the eyes of this young unassuming child and his unbridled response to hearing the live music.