Monday, April 28, 2008

A particularly sweet moment

I am a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant person and I have to say that sometimes we who fall into that cultural grouping are a bit reserved when it comes to physical affection. I am not talking about sex, but about daily affectionate touch and tenderness. Once in awhile I see a WASPish family break that stereotype, though. I am thinking of a patient I knew once, an old man who had a large, loving family. In his last couple of days he was slowly dying, mostly unresponsive, but being kept comfortable by family and care staff. His family members were unabashedly tender to him. I saw especially his grown sons caressing the dear balding head, leaning foreheads down to touch his, holding his arms, resting a loving hand on his thin chest. I saw wife, sons, daughters, gently holding his old, worn hands, shaping their own hands to his hands, arms, face, body, allowing their hands to store the memory of their loved one's physicality. I could imagine how our patient's gnarled, spotted hands must have held his sons and daughters, loved his wife, in the years past. I wondered if, even deep in his coma, he might have been soaking up the love of his family, feeling the tender caresses and wordless farewells, taking comfort from the touch of his own dear ones right through the very moment of his death. I wondered if, in the days of loss after his death, family members might have found themselves unconsciously curling their fingers into the shape that had held this dear man's hands, or stroked his head--or remembering the precise feel of his forehead against theirs, his cheek against theirs, his lips against theirs. Their time of farewell felt poignant and so sacred to me, because it was both "spiritual" and sensual, and because his body, even old and worn and sick, was so thoroughly, respectfully, and tenderly loved.


Blogger jadedjabber said...

a WASP myself I can relate to your post. I often wish we could be more affectionate and not get so freaked out. Chill people, it's just a touch. :-)

1:03 PM  
Blogger Sophie's Daughter said...

Not a wasp, but my family is. Such a beautifully written reflection on our physical selves. Thank you.

5:56 PM  

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