Since early summer, I have had a lot of challenging news to process. Yesterday, I was at yet another funeral though I must confess due to a scheduling conflict that I slipped in only at the end. I wanted to at the very least spend some time with the sons of the deceased and my friends who would gather in support of them. The layers of memories that occur always fascinate me and lately, I find myself even more open to being present in situations like this. Sometimes the emotions can be raw.
Because I had scooted in with only 10 or so minutes left to go, I was one of the first people to enter the foyer and I found myself almost face-to-face with the older son. As I approached him, offering my sympathies, I was uncertain that he would remember me as two decades had passed but I saw the light come on through his eyes and a huge smile before we embraced. My hands took his and we stood, speaking like that, for a few moments before he led me into the reception hall, still catching up and holding hands. The younger son, a dear friend, was standing beside a long time buddy of his, and again after a hug, my hand clasped his before I turned to greet our friend. What is about the power of touch that heals and connects people?
Several times throughout that afternoon my hand sought out someone else’s to hold. Many of us in this circle are going through our own private battles and then there is the fact that I too will be leaving them. Perhaps it was my way of saying that I do not want to let go of them or that I am with them. I am not sure exactly why touch seemed so important that day except that the younger son had taught me a valuable lesson about touch many moons ago. Often at parties, we would start teasing one another about something and one time he asked why I did something. I asked what it was I did. He told me that I would say something in a teasing fashion and then I would touch him, usually on the arm. He was very observant because I was unaware of that on some level but I knew intuitively why I did it. Though we were joking, I knew that if any of the barbs that might have been internalized through our playful conversation that the touch would neutralize them.
Touch has the power to heal and to comfort. I find several friends have been giving me long embraces and until recently I was the one breaking away. I am learning to relax into them. These are not people I see regularly so when I am in their presence I am able to make myself vulnerable. Earlier this evening I admitted to another friend that I must let people be kind to me, and this includes the element of physical touch that I have long known is restorative. Last night I was out at a celebration and I found myself doing what I often do with the two children of the family — touching them. I gave them both big hugs upon arrival, my hand wanders to rub their backs when it is appropriate, I laid my head on the shoulder of the son for a moment, and I ran my fingers through the daughter’s hair commenting on her new cut. Affection is important. Some days I think platonic, loving touch is one of the most important gifts we can share with one another. In this world where violence is rampant, I think celebrating an innocent but loving touch is a blessing. I am going to pay more attention to this in the days and weeks ahead.
How and when do you touch people?
Have you ever been healed by someone’s platonic touch?
Gentle One, I seek your wisdom again. May I know how to touch in healing ways and allow myself to receive the soft, sacred stroke of another. Help me to learn how to use touch to break down barriers and instill self-worth. Amen.