87-year-old Luana Mangold has been volunteering, with strings attached, at Good Samaritan Society – Prescott Hospice and Marley House in Arizona for 12 years. Those strings are a part of the 39-pound Paraguayan folk harp she lugs into the building to peacefully strum for patients and families.
“Many times, there’s visiting families sitting there or patients,” Mangold says about her weekly performances in the center’s common area.
Society staff open the doors of the 10-bed unit so Mangold’s melodies can fill each of the patients’ rooms.
“When I’m through, I’ll ask the nurses there if there’s anyone in transition,” Mangold says. “I have played for many, many souls that have passed.”
When a patient is near death, she’ll carry a smaller harp to their bedside and perform privately.
“You don’t come into this world alone and if you choose not to, why should you leave it alone when there are other people willing to sit with you?” Mangold says.
National Ever Forward Volunteer Champion
Society administrator Linda Miller says Mangold’s compassion has been felt by hundreds since Marley House, Prescott’s only not-for-profit hospice house, opened in 2011. The professional harpist will also visit homes of patients using in-home hospice through the Society.
“It’s her heart. She’s not there just to play. Her heart really wants to make a difference and it comes through her music,” Miller says.
Miller’s family experienced the difference firsthand when her mother Lucy spent time at the Society during a respite care stay.
“It calms families. Families feel better. They feel like it’s going to be OK. It’s just a beautiful sense of peace that comes with that music,” Miller says.
A huge asset to the hospice team, Mangold is being recognized for her commitment to hospice care. She’s been named the Society’s National Ever Forward Volunteer Champion.
“In one word, she’s a saint,” Society chaplain Adam Bissell says. “As a fellow musician, I’ve enjoyed her harp playing the last dozen years.
“As people are transitioning into the next world, to have that harp in the background is majestic.”
Hanging up her harp
A long-time supporter of hospice care, Mangold found out about the award the same week she finally retired from playing harp.
“I was so surprised,” Mangold says. “It’s a great honor.”
Miller adds, “We’re going to miss her greatly.”
While Mangold jokes she comes “from very sturdy people,” the American Indian born in Jemez Pueblo, New Mexico, is struggling to transport her harp from place to place.
“It’s very awkward to carry,” Mangold says.
After years of volunteering, she’s earning a well-deserved break.
If you’re wondering how she got hooked on the harp in the first place, Mangold says she learned how to play from a friend.
“I always call it the naked piano because the strings are there. You can see what you’re doing,” Mangold says.
As a little girl, she picked up piano from a nun after school. Years of experience with that instrument was key to her picking up the harp quickly.
“Needed very little coaching and I could take off with it,” Mangold says. “I’ve always been very active and not afraid to try new things.”
‘Exemplifies all of our values and mission’
While Mangold is on to her next adventure, Society team members are encouraging her not to be a stranger to the location here in Prescott.
“They’re really nice people here. The nurses are just outstanding at Marley House, and the staff here is just great,” Mangold says. “They really believe in it. You feel that.”
Miller says it’s because the work matters.
“It matters to us that people have a good experience. That the patient is comfortable when it’s time for the end of life and that families have that time to be present while we care for that patient.”
Resonating since the beginning of Marley House, Mangold’s contribution will be remembered long into the future.
“It’s just been an honor to have her with us,” Bissell says. “She just exemplifies all of our values and mission in her natural, humble way.
“Just a great example of, it’s never too late. Don’t give up. Live fully as much as you can.”