Saturday, August 30, 2014

Hospice Chaplain Adds Harmonica To His Ministry Outreach to Patients

Rogers Durham is pictured at his recital.
Sixty-five years ago, State of the Heart Hospice Chaplain Rogers Durham tried playing the harmonica. “I admit, I played at it,” he said recently. He set the harmonica aside, and then a year ago, at age 77, he decided to take lessons to officially “learn how to play the harmonica.” The reason, he stated, is a simple one:

“I wanted to play hymns for the patients I was visiting as a chaplain. Often, we will get a call and a patient’s family will ask for music therapy along with a visit from a chaplain,” he explained. Sometimes, one or the other is not available. State of the Heart Hospice offers music therapy to patients and families. “Being able to play the harmonica provides a perfect blend of mixing music with my role as the chaplain,” he said.

Hospice care addresses the physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual needs of both the patient and the family. The chaplain is an important part of the State of the Heart team of caregivers which consists of physicians, nurses, health aides, social workers, bereavement specialists, volunteers and the music therapists and chaplains.

State of the Heart provides an on-call service for families called Ministry and Music. This service is provided after hours on an on call basis, he explained, and usually comes into play when a patient is near death. The call can come at any hour of the day, including weekends with the on call person providing care throughout the hospice service area. Music therapy is welcomed into the patient’s home as is the services provided by the hospice chaplain. State of the Heart has two certified Music Therapists and a Music Therapy intern. Music therapy is a valuable service to patients and families, helping with pain control, anxiety, recalling past times, and for its soothing impact on an individual.

Durham explained that he was seeking a way to supplement his chaplaincy with music. “My voice is not as good as it once was, so I knew I had to do something else,” he said. One day, he added, he recalled his playing the harmonica and decided to learn to play so he could play hymns for the patients who requested their favorite hymns.

His wife Janice, a State of the Heart volunteer, encouraged him. He found someone in Portland, Tom Frye, who gave harmonica lessons in addition to lessons on other musical instruments. So, for over six months, with some space intervals, he took one-on-one lessons for a half hour at a time. “It was strange taking lessons with the youngsters,” he said, “and maybe it took me a little longer.” But he persevered, he said, and Janice, he added, “tolerated his practice sessions at home.”

Finally, he was ready to perform before an audience. On May 10 at Arts Place in Portland, he performed in his first recital. Did he have stage fright? “Oh yes,” he admitted. “I felt I could easily have gotten up and preached or addressed a group, but playing before them was a bit intimidating.” The recital was with others making their debut and was in the Hall-Moser auditorium.

Traci Straley, Director of Social Services for State of the Heart, stated, “Rogers took the initiative to add something extra to his services as a chaplain. His decision to take harmonica lessons so he could provide additional is admirable and very much in character with the person he is. It also makes a statement about the commitment our special team of caregivers has to provide the very best in comprehensive hospice care to patients and families.”
Durham, who was ordained in 1960 and has been a pastor at many churches in his career, has been a State of the Heart Hospice Chaplain for nearly eight years and has conducted 41 funerals for hospice patients. “It is a satisfying and gratifying ministry,” he said. “Many, many times I have been with a patient and have said or done something that has helped them. Being there at one’s time of need is rewarding.”

Now, Durham routinely takes his harmonica on patient visits. His favorite hymn to play, he said “is When We All Get to Heaven.” He usually selects a favorite that the patient has. “I find joy in my recent accomplishment in learning to play the harmonica, knowing that I bring even more comfort to a dying patient,” he said.

State of the Heart Hospice has cared for patients and families in eastern Indiana and western Ohio for 33 years. The nonprofit agency has offices in Greenville, Portland and Coldwater. For more information about the agency, visit the web site at .

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