Published March 15, 2018
It took over two months, but I finally listened to the CD my sister Paula made for me. I laughed and cried as she talked about the good and not so good times in our lives and her hopes. Her funny personality and wisdom shone through with her inspirational message. On New Year’s Eve, Paula was finally at peace after a five-year struggle with ovarian cancer. She was 48. I’ll always treasure the opportunity to hear her voice, though she’s no longer with us.
The CD was one of a number of projects she worked on in the last few months of her life. In April 2017, Paula was told her cancer was back; she had three to nine months to live. During one of her stays at An Calla, the palliative care unit at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital, Paula had the good fortune to meet music therapist Jill Murphy who works for the hospice. Paula was a bit skeptical at first when Jill talked to her about participating in music therapy, but it didn’t take long for Jill to convince her.
The year before, Paula had participated in the Art of Living and the Art of Medicine programs at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital. She worked with wildlife photographer Kris Tynski to develop a photography project to talk about living with cancer. This project turned into a life-changing interest in photography for Paula.
Paula began to look forward to working with Jill. Initially, we weren’t sure what those projects were, but it gave Paula a new sense of purpose. Jill wrote a song for Paula, based on one of her photos. Paula loved it. Jill became a friend that Paula wished she’d had more time to spend with. Jill graciously played that song at Paula’s celebration of life.
Through the music therapy program, Paula made a number of CDs for family and friends which highlighted her humour, wisdom, photography and favourite music. The opportunity to create these legacy pieces for her loved ones brought peace to Paula. It was her chance to tell people what they meant to her. The CDs were sent out after Paula’s passing. While some people played their CDs right away, some of us waited until we felt the time was right. We want to thank Jill Murphy and the music therapy program for giving us such a special tribute from Paula.
March is Music Therapy Month across Canada. This is an amazing program that can help so many people. I am so grateful my sister had the opportunity to participate in it.
Helen Graham, Sydney, sister of Paula Graham