Thankful in Body and Mind
Posted by Dana Conlon
Massage therapy has proven to be very beneficial for hospice patients and can lessen the need for pharmaceutical intervention. Massage therapy can provide immediate relief of pain, discomfort and anxiety caused by symptoms such as contractions, stiffness, shortness of breath, nausea, cramping and muscle spasms while simultaneously increasing feelings of peace and comfort. The simple act of human touch is one of the most ancient and effective ways to relieve discomfort in the body. Providing massage to the dying reinforces the wholeness of the individual regardless of what is happening to their body.
As a massage therapist for hospice patients, I went to see a woman with cancer. She was a published poet, very creative and very insightful, and the more I got to know her the more remarkable I felt she was.
She would lie in her bed to receive massage as she could not get up onto my table very easily. During this one particular session I felt very connected to her on a spiritual level as we listened to some beautiful music playing in the background. At the end of the session she had tears in her eyes as she told me she too felt this very spiritual connection to me.
She said that during the massage she would silently thank the parts of her body I was working on, for all the things they provided for her throughout her years ― the hard work she was able to do because of her once strong legs, the ability to hold her loved ones in her arms, and to have the use of her hands to hold her pen to write or to cook a meal. She said she had never before looked at her body in this way, and that it was a gift to do so as her body was now giving out on her.
This session not only impacted her but it impacted me as well. The spiritual connection was as if we were “one” and not two separate people in that space and time together. It was very powerful for both of us as she felt that same connection. This woman’s attitude about being thankful for all her body had done for her throughout her life made me realize to a greater degree how we can all look to find the good even in the bad.
As sad as hospice work can be, and often is, we still have the choice in how we look at it. Sometimes now, when I massage my patients I imagine the various parts of their bodies not only working hard for them but also providing love to their family and friends. Compassion wells up in me as I sense the innocence and pureness of that love. We are all individuals with different outlooks on life, even in death, and I have learned through this experience that I for one want to be the one that looks for the good in all of it.