Alana’s entire head was tingling. As she lay in bed, now fully awake, she wondered, Does this mean I have one foot in the grave?
She’d awoken to a distant trumpet call and then a delicate tinkling sound, almost like pieces of glass chiming together.
Her first thought was, Thank you. For she felt as if she’d been given a brief auditory glimpse of heaven. But then she wondered…
That night Alana saw a harp for sale. Maybe that was the sound I heard. Am I meant to play the harp? I’ve thought about it for years… What if my time really is running out?
She searched online and with a few clicks ordered herself a baby harp. If nothing else, it’ll be a pretty decoration.
Alana already knew how to read music and so outgrew her 12 string harp after playing it exactly twice. It wouldn’t stay in tune, couldn’t play sharps or flats (unless it was tuned to do so), and was so small she couldn’t play with two hands. I can’t even play the “Happy Birthday” song.
But she loved the sound. She researched harps and learned about levers and pedals. “Real” harps were expensive. She found a good lap harp, but even that wasn’t cheap. And with the kids and everything, I have no time for it anyway…
But Alana kept seeing references to harps and harpists in magazines, her husband’s email, on the radio, and especially in her Bible reading. Is God telling me to go for it?
And so when they got their tax refund, Alana bought the 26 string lap harp, one she could grow with. I feel called to play it.
The next year Junior’s CCD class needed to do community service. Maybe the kids could sing at next month’s children’s mass. It’d be adorable. The less musical kids could do the readings. And I’ll play my harp.
However, the priest didn’t want them performing in the choir loft. The kids didn’t mind being on the altar, but shy Alana did. In the end she told herself, Everyone will be too busy listening to the kid’s sweet voices to hear all my mistakes. She practiced and practiced, as did the children. It went beautifully.
Not long afterward Alana’s pastor called. “Irene is ill and no one else is available. Might you be able to play your lovely harp at a funeral mass on Wednesday morning?”
She did. But she hid up in the choir loft with her little harp. Alana had been practicing her hymns so she played fairly well. Even a bad note on the harp still sounds pretty good.
She didn’t know till later how much her playing had meant to that grieving family. Their grandmother had been born in Ireland and had always loved the harp. – Alana was the perfect one to play for her funeral mass.
Soon Alana began to get requests to play at weddings as well. She didn’t make a lot of money, often she made none at all. She played to make beautiful music, to make people happy, and to bring, “A little bit of heaven to earth.”
When Alana’s Aunt Mavis became gravely ill, Alana brought her lap harp to the hospital, the rehabilitation facility, and finally to the hospice center to play for her. Even with her pain, confusion, and the hopelessness of the situation, the sound of Alana’s harp made Aunt Mavis smile. It comforted her.
Alana had found her calling -- as a harp therapist. She got certified and for forty years played her lap harp for young and old in hospitals, nursing homes, and at the bedside of the terminally ill and dying. -- It was as it was meant to be.
She heard the delicate plucking of a harp as she slowly returned to consciousness. Alana smiled at the sound of her beloved instrument. She was too weak to play herself.
Now it’s my turn… She turned towards the sound of the little harp and smiled at her grand-daughter. She played well. Alana had taught her. She had taught them all…
The sound of the little harp drifted away as Alana breathed her last.
And once again she heard that vaguely familiar trumpet call -- followed by heaven’s glorious symphony…
“There I will go to the altar of God, to God -- the source of all my joy. I will praise you with my harp, O God, my God!”
Psalm 43:4 (NLT)
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