GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — There was one moment in her 15-year career in music therapy that Rachael Lawrence-Lupton calls a once-in-a-career miracle.
She deals with a unique field of people, those near the end of life. Just over three years ago, she was called to a gentleman’s house, Gary Paschka. He was dealing with severe anxiety near the end of life and it was though music could be helpful — he had been a lifelong musician and owned a large collection of harmonicas.
“As he got towards the end of life, and he was bedridden at this point, he’s in his bed and he was having trouble breathing. He wasn’t really able to verbalize too much. He was declining. His body was shutting down,” Lawrence-Lupton remembers. “And out of nowhere, with this visit we had together, he looks at his wife and says, ‘I want to play the harmonica.'”
What followed was a minute of hopeful harmony as Paschka found the air to rift a bluesy melody and Lawrence-Lupton strummed the chords to connect the sound and person.
“He just played his heart out,” Lawerence-Lupton smiled. “As soon as he was done, the first thing he says to his wife is, ‘Can I have some whiskey?’ And his wife is like, ‘You don’t drink, but yeah, of course.’ And he went and he enjoyed it. And it was just one of those things where you’re like, ‘I can’t believe I got to be a part of this moment. It was incredible.'”
Lawrence-Lupton has been working as the music therapy supervisor and internship director at Hospice of Michigan for more than seven years.
“What music therapy does and why it’s so important that it’s done by a board certified music therapist is that we’re constantly adapting,” Lawrence-Lupton said. “It’s that ability to create a space that’s really special and that people can feel the change in the energy when they walk into that room. They can just tell there’s something different here. There’s something magical going on.”
It’s one of the many programs that Hospice of Michigan offers in their mission of ‘Every person. Every time.’ It’s also one that is not covered by insurance. The quality care music therapy and a number of other end-of-life programs are made possible through their Open Access program. Open Access is supported exclusively by community philanthropy through fundraising events like Barley, BBQ and Beats.
“All of our funds from Barley, BBQ and Beats go to our Open Access program, which means we never turn anyone away regardless of their age, if they’re a pediatric patient. Regardless of their diagnosis, say they have a really complex diagnosis, we find a way to say yes. Or their ability to pay, it doesn’t matter if a patient has insurance or not, they’ll never receive a bill from us,” said Marcie Hillary, the senior VP of community relations. “All of that work is done and paid for out of philanthropy. So donations given in our communities pay 100% of that work.”
On Saturday at GLC Live at 20 Monroe, HOM has crafted a night of local distilleries, BBQ and live music with an important mission to secure quality end of life care to any family. There will be a special appearance from Kelsea Ballerini, who will open up for Kenny Chesney at Van Andel Arena later in the night.
“If you’ve never been to Barley, BBQ and Beats, it’s really a celebration of life. In hospice care we do that, we tie in the best quality of life at end of life, and barley’s kind of an extension of that,” Hillary said. “It’s a perfect mix of fun and celebration, but also a really meaningful message too.”
Lawrence-Lupton will share her moment with Paschka at the event and ask the community to help her music therapy program through donations and to ‘Make it a Double.’ The Steve and Amy Van Andel Foundation has offered to match up to $250,000 of donations for all six Barley, BBQ and Beats events across the state.
“Amy Van Andel is no stranger to hospice care. As a hospice nurse, we’ve always said we’re kindred spirits. Not that I’m a nurse, but been in hospice care for a long time,” Hillary said about the Make it a Double pledge. “She said, ‘I’m not doing this for the recognition, I’m doing this because I love hospice care.'”