Now retired, I volunteer in a local hospital doing hand and foot massages. Most of the patients are elderly and frail and I love this opportunity to share this tender contact. Their skin so soft and delicate, I wonder at the use these hands have been put to over the many years, the love they have held, the work they have done and the surrender that age is now imposing.
Most are not used to this level of nurturing and intimacy. I can feel the conflict of control and the letting go.
Some just watch as I slowly and rhythmically massage their hands, like they are seeing their hands for the first time, no conversation necessary. I noticed one woman when I had finished, intently gaze at her hands with such stillness, that people walking past or into her room did so slowly and quietly.
Some take this opportunity to talk about friends and family, their fears of returning home and the adjustments they are now facing. I have no defining answers and continue to listen and pour tenderness into the massage and that seems to soothe their fears. I feel that having a massage is a welcome relief from being treated as sick and ailing, prodded and poked, an opportunity to just feel into their body and freely feel and express its aging process; an opportunity to diverge from the routine of sitting and waiting for medication, food, toiletry and disappearing into sleep.
They are my teachers, living in the grace of surrendering to the body, of accepting that all the dramas that we pack into a life are no longer relevant and that it is more about the quality of relationships that we have formed in our lives.
Very rarely do they talk about their work or hardships, what is important now is family, friends, pets and how they are going to manage after leaving the hospital. I sense the fragility and vulnerability within their frail bodies, and read their facial expressions.
I can see in their eyes and the touch and tone of the skin a timelessness where the past, present and future all meld and seem to exist at the same time. It’s such a deep privilege to share this brief but seemingly eternal connection.
Kathy S., Australia