Volunteer channels loss of pet into musical gift

April 04, 2022
a woman in a red volunteer polo sits at a piano and plays
Meg Mauro says she could play all day, every day, if she didn't have other responsibilities to attend to. Photo by Sarah Pack

“When people say, ‘Stop and smell the flowers,’ I say, ‘Stop and hear the music,’” says Meg Mauro.

Her fingers move lightly up and down the piano keyboard, the gentle sound wafting down from the open second floor to reach patients and employees in waiting areas on the first and second levels of the MUSC Health East Cooper Medical Pavilion in Mount Pleasant. She hopes the music can soothe stressed or worried patients.

Mauro has spent more than three years visiting with patients, but she’s always been accompanied by her miniature dachshund, Beasley. She and Beasley were part of the pet therapy team, and they volunteered at both MUSC Health and Roper St. Francis. At MUSC Health, they devoted a lot of their time to sitting with cancer patients receiving infusions. Beasley was even honored as a Health Care Hero in 2020.

Sadly, Beasley died last fall. He ruptured a disc, a fairly common problem for dachshunds, and was quickly paralyzed. Mauro was devastated by his death.

“Not only did I lose my dog, who I loved, but I lost something I loved to do,” she says.

closeup of a photo of a dog with his MUSC pet therapy badge affixed to it 
A photo of Beasley sits atop the piano along with his pet therapy volunteer badge. Photo by Sarah Pack

She knew she wanted to continue nurturing her connection to the employees and patients. But she wasn’t sure how.

As it happened, her husband bought her a baby grand piano in the fall to replace an old upright piano. She had taken lessons as a young child with her mother’s encouragement but eventually quit. Later, as a mother herself, she began taking lessons again when her own children started. She played off and on after that, but that baby grand motivated her.

“I thought, ‘OK, I'm going to step it up a notch and become worthy of this piano,’” she says. “So I've been playing a lot and trying to learn new styles and songs.”

And she realized that she could still volunteer at MUSC, with the Arts in Healing team instead of the pet therapy team. University Hospital, Ashley River Tower and Hollings Cancer Center all featured pianos in their public spaces, but the East Cooper site didn’t have one. Mauro began brainstorming about how to get a piano there.

Maria Vinson, office manager for MUSC Health East Cooper, was immediately on board with the idea.

“My family consists of many musicians, including myself, and we have always viewed music as therapeutic and a ‘pathway to the soul.’ With music, one can express so many emotions without uttering a single word – it’s such a powerful gift! When I received the news that Meg had intentions of bringing a piano to MUSC Health East Cooper, I was overjoyed and humbled,” Vinson said.

“However, when I learned the additional news about the passing of Beasley and how this gift of music would not only benefit patients but also assist with Meg’s process of healing from the loss, I was dedicated to assisting her efforts in every way.”

After securing a promise from Fox Music that it would transport a piano if she could secure one, Mauro put out a call on social media for anyone interested in donating a piano.

a group of about a dozen people pose in front of a piano in a lobby 
Facility staff gathered along with Meg Mauro, fourth from left, and Wendy Sharp, third from left, to celebrate the new piano's arrival. Photo provided

She got a reply from Wendy Sharp – who, as it turned out, not only lived in Mount Pleasant but was practically around the corner from Mauro.

Sharp had an unused piano sitting in her guest room that she had been holding onto for her daughter. Eventually, her daughter, a NICU nurse in Greenville, admitted that she was unlikely to have room for a piano any time soon and gave the go-ahead for Sharp to donate it.

“One night Meg’s post popped up on my screen and I knew this was the perfect place for it (an answer to prayers), if she wanted it,” Sharp said.

Sharp’s piano was in good condition, and both Sharp and Mauro agree that an unplayed piano is a sad instrument. The donation and transportation were soon arranged.

“I’m thankful that it all worked out and pray that everyone who hears Meg play or plays it themselves will find peace and comfort through its music,” Sharp said.

With the piano safely installed, Mauro, Sharp, Arts in Healing manager Katie Hinson Sullivan and facility staff members gathered for an opening ceremony March 10. Mauro choked up a little, recounting the story of Beasley, who is commemorated in photos atop the piano.

Mauro has been coming to the facility one day each week to play – although, really, she could play endlessly if she didn’t have other responsibilities.

“I could do it all day long, every day – I love it,” she says.

Vinson said the staff is grateful to have such beautiful music gracing the facility.

“We can never fully encapsulate how fortunate we are to have our MUSC volunteers and so many wonderful people who selflessly donate their time and resources to our organization, but the difference that they make each day speaks volumes. We are so grateful for all that they do.”

Musical Gift

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