Phyllis O. Koiwai

Memoir by Edie Elkan

Phyllis Koiwai, my teacher, dear friend, and sometimes surrogate mom, was diagnosed with a late-stage, highly aggressive form of ovarian cancer two days before Thanksgiving 2001. She passed away a week before Christmas, leaving her family and friends shocked and disbelieving. In so many ways, Phyllis had always seemed larger than life. That she’d gotten so sick and died in less than a month’s time was very nearly unfathomable to all of us who knew and loved her.

A few months later, as I was developing the programs for Bedside Harp®, it occurred to me that I had before me a wonderful opportunity to honor my dear friend: I could establish a scholarship in her memory. Phyllis was, after all, so encouraging of people pursuing new ventures and so especially admiring of people who chose to help others. In fact, it was her joy to help such people realize their dreams-financially and otherwise.

What to name such a scholarship was easy-Over the Rainbow was Phyllis’s favorite song-one that I played by her bedside the night she died and a few days later, at the memorial service held to celebrate her life.

Thinking more about the scholarship which might make it possible for someone to become a certified harp therapist, I came to the realization that I could broaden the scope of this idea. Calling all the scholarships Bedside Harp® offers, Over the Rainbow scholarships, I could open this fund to any person or organization who wished to honor a loved one or honor the work of all harp therapists by sponsoring a student or students who, after their training, would go on to soothe and comfort so many others. That would make it possible to grant even more Bedside Harp® certification students some financial assistance as they work toward their dream of caring for others in this very special way.

I can very nearly see Phyllis’s smile of approval.

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