Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Power of Touch (and Hugs)

On June 13, the fourth anniversary of our mother’s death, my sister and I were talking about how we missed her now more than ever. We realized what we missed most was the ability to touch her. Although she had lost the capacity to communicate, while she was alive we could still give and receive hugs.

Our mother loved to touch. When I was young, her desire to touch was an irritant. Now I would give anything to feel her presence and give her a hug.

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines hug as follows: “To press tightly, especially in the arms; to hold fast: cherish; to stay close to.” Touch provides comfort, security, affection. Gentle loving physical contact can bring peace to the soul; convey understanding, concern, and love.

When dementia has robbed a love one of the ability to verbally interact with or recognize family members, a warm hug can speak volumes. When we are no longer able to communicate, we learn others ways to connect. Touching conveys a powerful message that we are present in our loved ones life.

Our family as a whole has never been particularly touchy-feely. In later years, Mom led the way in breaking the emotional and physical distance between us. Unfortunately we are now denied the very thing we miss the most, the ability to touch our mother.


Gail Lynn said...

You are SO right about touch being one of the final ways to show any love, affection, and even communication with an Alzheimer's patient. Mama was NEVER one to hug us-her family was just not a "touchy" kind of family. But the 3 years I cried through most of the Christmas Season, because Mama was there, yet not there to make it "Christmas" like she used to, my oldest daughter said to me, "Mom, grive what you must, but when you are done, look for the things you have now with your Mama that you didn't have before." Touch and hugging was the main thing that changed. She reached for us every opportunity she had, and she wanted and LOVED those hugs and kisses. I also miss being able to "touch" her.

Gail Lynn said...

I also wanted you to know that I live in Shepherd, MI - which is about 65 miles North of Lansing. I was born in Lansing/Sparrow Hosptial, but we moved to Mt. Pleasant, MI when I was 7 because Dad took a Pastorate up there. (And, no, he was not my pastor when he passed away. I have attended a different church for many, many years-although we had great fellowship with each other!

Edie said...

Gail Lynn, I attended Central Michigan prior to my marriage. Also, I worked at Sparrow Hospital for many years and that is where my two daughters were born.

One of the first things that really upset us was how the holidays changed. Thanksgiving was usually pretty huge for us and Christmas also. Mom loved the holidays, decorated to the hilt, and we had huge meals. All that changed, of course, and was one of the most difficult changes on an emotional level.

Thanks for sharing and I look forward to "chatting" with you in the future.