As I leave this morning to give a massage to a client who is in the late stages of cancer, I recall a man I had worked with some years ago with a terminal brain tumour. He did not have long to live and as he approached death – the acceptance, the surrender and healing that were happening for him, unfolded more each time I saw him.
On one of my visits we spoke about time. “How can we possibly measure time?” he said.
Now that there were fewer moments left, each one had become bigger, with more to appreciate.
This was a rare moment of clarity in communication. Because of the brain cancer his speech and ability to form sentences had been impaired. He might say Allan but mean Lucy, but I could understand what he meant. I could read the tone and the deeper meaning.
Because he couldn’t embellish or colour his words he would often get straight to the point. There would be a simplicity and child-like quality to the way he communicated.
“Maybe you lost that sharp mind of yours so you could come back the simplicity of love and care as the ultimate form of communication” I would say to him, and he agreed with me.
When his state got physically worse, he was admitted to a care home. When I would visit him I could tell by the way that he was that day whether the staff had nurtured or neglected him.
Sometimes they would forget to shower him and he would be sullen and withdrawn. Other days he would be shaven and showered and notably more engaged and bright. It’s so simple really. Human touch and connection is key to our wellbeing.
‘Whether we live side-by-side or worlds apart, it is the quality of our connection with each other that brings us together and a lack of that keeps us apart. Thus, it is not physical distance that determines our closeness but the openness of our hearts.
In remembering this man I naturally find myself reflecting on what an privelage it is to be called in to support to people who are reaching the end of life.
Whether they are elderly, experiencing illness or have a chronic disease like cancer, when connecting with a person through a tender loving touch or gentle massage, the hardness in the body starts to break down.
From here they start to feel their innate tenderness as they begin to surrender. Massage can also reduce anxiety and reduce pain levels and this allows them to open up in a natural way about their sense of their life’s completion and about how they truly feel, letting go of regrets and fears and truly appreciating their journey through life.
For some, there are moments of fear of the unknown and for others they see the passing over not as an end but simply a preparation for a new beginning – an unfoldment back to the essentials in life, to the essence of who they truly are. Leonardo Da Vinci summed it up when he said, “While I thought that I was learning how to live, I have been learning how to die.”
This is a very profound time for everyone involved and particularly for the person getting ready to pass over. Being able to support in this process is indeed an honour.