Happy New Year to all. Hospice massage offers an intimate, hopeful, and inspiring path within the massage industry. For me and many others it offers inspiration and hope in a culture where today hope and tenderness are desperately needed. People ask all the time about this work being depressing.
The following article mailed to me by Mary Cheers LMT; RMT in Dayton Ohio sheds light on why this work is such a gift. This depth of intimacy in our culture today is a luxury. Intimacy expands the heart. An expanded heart is the perfect antidote to fear. The names Mary has chosen say a lot about the impact of the experience for her.
“Although the Massage/Bodywork profession has provided me with many lessons and perspective-altering experiences, one of the most profound of these was with my first hospice patient, Joy”
When I arrived, Joy’s nurse said, “That patient is dying.” I said, “I know.” She replied, “No, I mean Joy is actively dying.” I said, “I know.” Somehow, I knew exactly what she meant, even before she explained.
Walking to Joy’s room, I was a little panicked. Why was I here? What was I supposed to do? I had zero experience with helping someone during the dying process. And yet, we had scheduled this appointment six weeks ago. I took a deep breath and silently prayed, “Someone better help me out here, because I don’t know what I’m doing!”
Joy’s sister and her niece were at her bedside. I introduced myself and offered to leave if I was intruding. Her sister answered, “You are her birthday present from her best friend, Hope. Please stay.”
The room filled with the sounds of the relaxing music I brought with me. I grounded and centered myself, and continued to silently ask for guidance. I set my intention for her highest good.
As I worked, Joy’s sister began to tell me about Joy’s life, and how they would miss her. She began to cry as she was talking. I could feel the tears beginning to burn my own eyes. My first thought was, “Oh, no! I can’t cry! That would be so unprofessional”. But this thought was immediately replaced with, “No. It’s so human.” I cried and I laughed with them, as I touched Joy, using only very gentle massage and energy balancing techniques.
A tear ran down Joy’s cheek. Her niece asked, “Why is she crying?” Again somehow I knew the answer: ”She doesn’t want you to be sad,” I replied. In that moment I also knew why I was there, why she had waited for me: I was supposed to help her family let her go.
I had been in Joy’s room from 2pm until about 3:10pm. She died peacefully at 4:20pm. I was overwhelmed with feelings.
What I mostly felt was honored: honored to have been allowed to share in such a private, important moment in this family’s life. I also felt blessed that I had received the guidance to make the space to know what this patient and her family needed.
If someone had told me that morning that I was to help someone die, I would have said, ”Absolutely not. Find someone else. I don’t know how to do that!” But apparently I did. I say this because I received a thank you note from Hope telling me that, at the funeral, Joy’s family could not stop talking about the “little angel who showed up to help her die.”
What they don’t know is how they changed my life. It is because of this profound experience that I was drawn to work with more hospice patients.
I will be forever grateful to Hope, Joy and her family for leading me to a path
I never knew I wanted to travel.
Mary Cheers, LMT, RMT: Instructor, Workshop Facilitator, Licensed Massage Therapist, Reiki Master/Teacher. She began her studies of Energy Medicine & the Body/Mind/Spirit connection in 1985. Her private practice is in Dayton, Ohio, where she specializes in the management of chronic pain, including Hospice & Palliative Care. She is available as a presenter/workshop facilitator on these and other topics.
Irene Smith www.everflowing.org