Thursday, 28 April 2011

Reach out and touch ..

Today I have felt a bit weepy again. A bit angry with Clive too for going. Dom is revising but it's just good to have him around. My concentration has plummeted today again so I guess it's time for a bit of kindness to myself and I will ride this wave. Don't worry! This gets better from now on!

I was putting on hand cream this morning and it reminded me of Clive's huge hands. I loved them! Holding them. Watching him 'use' them as he presented on stage. The way he would cradle new babies in one of them. Clapping loudly on the dashboard with them to happy songs. Stroking my cheek. Expressing every emotion with them watching rugby. They were huge but could be so gentle. Clive was a great 'toucher' - he rarely greeted anyone without physically touching them in someway. It added to his warmth. Boy, do I miss that touch.

Holding Ruby at Sue and Scott's wedding last year.
I have always known that hands can be powerful in many ways. When I was working as a consultant for Virgin Vie cosmetics, to back up my early speaking career, I used to go into residential homes for the elderly and do demonstrations. At one home I had 'entertained' some of the residents in the dining area and I asked if there was anyone else who might like a little pamper. A rather brusque member of staff told me, 'There's Gladys, in the lounge, but you won't get anything out of her.  She doesn't do anything'.

Undeterred I asked if I could at least say hello. Gladys was drooped in a large chair, plonked in front of the television. Her thin legs curled beneath her, hands and arms tightly clenched under her chin, her mouth gaping and dribbling, her eyes barely open. She was wearing a pretty floral dress, thick tights and pink slippers that fastened with velcro. I knew it was Gladys because I could see her name written in the back of her yellow cardigan as she was slumped forward.

She reminded me of my beloved great-auntie Annie who had been fully independent, living in her own home well into her 90's until a stroke left her striped of her dignity and 'life'. She took had ended her days in a similar position to the one I now found Gladys in. Before my Grandma had died I used to do her nails for her too. My elderly relatives are gone but here was someone else's before me. I merely treated her like I hoped people would have done my relatives, with respect and kindness.

I wondered what her youth had been like. Did she have family? What had she done with her life? Yet what counted at that moment, as it often does, was exactly that moment. I wanted to make it count.

I had taught children with profound and multiple disabilities so the drool and gnarled hands did not bother me. I knelt in front of her and after saying who I was I asked if it would be alright if I just rubbed hand cream on her hands. I said that I would not hurt her and I would stop if she wanted me to. First I let her smell the cream and her chin lifted up. Gently and carefully I massaged her palm, fingers, back of her hand, talking to her and saying what a beautiful ring she was wearing. The more I massaged, the more her body seemed to uncurl. I finished one hand and asked if she wanted me to do the other. She moved it towards my outstretched hands. I repeated the process.

By the time I was close to finishing the second one, the member of staff waddled through to the lounge. She was just in time to see me gently pat Gladys's hand and thank her for allowing me to spend time with her; that she had reminded me of my Grandma and great-auntie whom I had loved and missed. Gladys lifted her head up as high as she could, she fixed her bright blue stunning eyes on me and her crooked face broke into an amazing smile, directed straight at me.

'Bloody hell!' said the carer, 'She's been in here months and I've never seen her do that!'

I hope I inspired them to make Gladys smile again.

One night I told Clive this story. It was when his Mum was close to death and he was spending hours just sitting with her. She no longer communicated with anyone. He told me he was 'lost'. He didn't know what to do or say. He queried if she even knew he was there. The next time he went to see her he took my hand cream with him. When he came home later he had tears in his eyes. I suspected she had gone.

'No,' he explained. 'It was beautiful. Like you said, I just chatted to her and as I did so I massaged her hand. Her eyes were closed. Her breathing shallow. I didn't think she knew what or who I was. I did one hand and gently placed it down at her side. I was about to give up when she lifted her other hand up! I did that one too. It showed me that she was still 'there' and I am so glad. Thank you for sharing that idea'.

The following night we had just drifted off to sleep when the phone call came to say his Mum had passed away. Clive always said that he felt his last time with her was very special and that he felt he had done something that made her feel nice.

I know this is cheesy but couldn't resist it ..

Just telling those stories have made me feel better!

What can you do to make someone feel good? 

Elaine x


1 comment:

Chrissie said...

I shall look for some 'pay it forward' opportunities this weekend and think of you.