Touching Grace: Deep Knowing
By: Erica Hodgson, LMT
I’ve had the privilege of touching Grace. Literally. I’m a massage therapist for hospice patients. A few months back I had the most profound experience with a patient. You know when you are minding your own business and all of a sudden you have a momentary experience and you know it is going to change your life? You know it and feel it somewhere deep, deep inside of you. You can’t quite put your finger on it, but you wake just knowing you are different because of the experience. Yes, just like that.
In hospice work there is a lot of change. Things can happen quickly. New patients come on service. Multiple people show up at the new patient’s house or facility to make sure things are going smoothly. Lots of moving parts. As a team, we all learn about the new patient - diagnosis, family information, medical information, general information etc. As I was reading about this new patient, it was as though after reading his name, I knew deep inside me that I must work on him. It was as if I already knew him, yet I had never met him.
I set up an evaluation to meet with him in home. He was laying in a hospital bed in his makeshift bedroom. His knees and elbows were red and hot to the touch. His body looked tired and swollen. He had blankets pulled up to just under his chin and his feet were sticking out of the bottom of the blankets. I looked him directly in the eyes when I greeted him (as I do with all my patients), holding out my blue gloved hand.
“Hi. I’m Erica, the massage therapist with Heartland. It is such a pleasure to meet you.”
Only my eyes could be seen from around my clear goggles and double face masks. It didn’t matter. I was there to meet him right where he was. No judgement. I saw him. He trusted me through my eyes. All the layers of life which had left countless emotional scars under which he was hiding, peeled back in that instant. It was safe to be seen. He knew and felt that. His body eased.
This patient and I only had three sessions together. They were powerful - when one spends life never feeling truly seen and then that moment arrives, powerful inner shifts can be felt. They were palpable. The elbows and knees became less inflamed. A feeling of calm surrender overcame his body, heart and mind. Breathing was easier and less constricted. With each session, his inner tension fell away until he was ready to pass. On the day after the third session, he passed peacefully. His family member who was caring for him reported she hadn’t seen him so calm in so long. She was so pleased with the whole experience of hospice and the entire team’s efforts to care for her brother. She had seen him surrender over those few weeks and come back to himself.
This work changes you. You get the honor of seeing someone sometimes at their absolute worst and standing right beside them holding their hand and saying, “I see you.” You don’t try to fix them. You don’t try to ease your own pain as you watch another human suffer. You just show up. You stand with them and hold their hand.
You offer witness.
You offer human love and compassion.
I hear you.
I see you.
It’s ok to let go.
I have you.