A Winnipeg nun uses the heavenly sounds of her harp to comfort patients at an assisted living centre. 

Jeannine Vermette has been making music as long as she can remember and now shares her talent and passion with those who need to hear it the most at Actionmarguerite. 

Vermette started piano lessons when she was six years old. Between her time playing the piano, accordion, organ, and then guitar, she wondered, "'How can I be more useful in this world of ours?' I had worked with some elderly people and some who were ill and I thought that it would be nice to be with them and do something that will really help them in their suffering and the last few miles that they have to live."

As she was figuring out what it would look like to help out, Vermette decided to try out another instrument. "I took some harp lessons and a course called International Harp Therapy. This led me to Actionmarguerite."

Saying that she learned to play the harp, "To be more present for those that were suffering," has been a perfect fit. "Harp has many strings and they are feeling strings."

Playing the harp has been a journey for Vermette and has posed many differences compared to other instruments. "The important thing is it's all in the listening. Even if you're there and not playing anything, the important thing is that you're listening to the person. Listening to who they are, what they want, and what they're living. So you add a little bit of soft music to that and it helps them along," Vermette says.

As Vermette plays for those at the end of their life, being by their side has been very important for her. "When I heard about this program, NODA [No One Dies Alone], that really got me excited because I think it's so important for people not to die alone. We had such terrible experiences during COVID-19, people passing and nobody with them and family couldn't see them." 

Vermette says that sometimes, those that she plays for just want to have someone there to listen. "I was playing for a man who was not feeling well and I started to play, he started to tell me his story so I played along, then I stopped playing and he just continued and continued, he had so much to say. Just to have someone there to listen to them is important, so many people are alone and lonely." 

Looking back at her years playing, one fond memory sticks out. "I remember playing on the eighth floor at St. Boniface Hospital, for a man I had seen a few times. I had gone in with my harp and we talked a little bit, and he said, 'What you played happens to be my favourite song. I just really love it.'" As that encouraged Vermette she says "It was such a coincidence that I happened to play his favourite song without even knowing, and the next day he had passed. So I thought, 'What a nice gift to be able to give him to play his favourite song just before he goes.'"

As far as her schedule, Vermette says it varies depending on the need but typically happens in the afternoon between 2-4. "It seems to be the best time for the people who are there."