TOUCHING AND HUGGING
The simple touch is recognized as good therapy—both physical and emotional. Rather unintentionally through the years I have formed the habit of touching the hand of the person with whom I am speaking. I did this before reading about the importance of touching or before actually giving much thought to the idea. To me it has been an effective way of getting the attention of the person to whom lam speaking. With the difficulty of my hearing, I find I often touch those who are unaware of my handicap to bring their attention to my eyes. I always apologize for the touch; however, I have yet to encounter anyone who does not kindly respond and become eager to communicate on my level. I try to keep in mind that not everyone is comfortable being touched and that touches are not always appropriate.
A hug is a special kind of touch and it has special therapeutic value. The poem accompanying this article, "Hugs," says much about the comfort of touching.
Two old hymns come to mind which relate to our exchange of the touch, "The Touch of His Hand on Mine" recounts the comfort His touch brings us even in our darkest hours. "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms" not only reminds me that I can find fellowship, joy, blessedness, and peace in His everlasting arms, but brings memories too. About midweek of week-long, twice-a-day revival services in the small churches where I grew up, the congregation would join joyfully in the words and rhythm of this old hymn based on the promise of Deuteronomy 33:27 that "The eternal God is our refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms."
Children are usually very open with their fondness for giving and receiving hugs when they sense the interest and warmth of another person. The little people in our church seek out certain people who often have candy or gum for them. I have enjoyed so much the warmth of children of our church family, though I do not know and am not known by all of them as once. We are blessed to have many young couples with young children come to our church, and I regret not being on regular "hugging terms" with all of the children.
Michael Briscoe, Bill and Jamie Briscoe’s little boy, is one of my favorites, and Michael knows me. On a recent Sunday morning I handed him several goodies which I had wrapped and brought especially for him. I thought he had left me when I felt him hugging my legs. I stooped down so Michael and I could exchange a really good hug.
Granddaughter Sally Kate and one of her friends whom I had not met went to Jackson with us for a visit. As the friend, Morgan Clark, daughter of Billy and Leesa Clark, came up the walk, Sally Kate introduced us, and Morgan immediately put forth her hand. I thought, "This child has stolen my heart on our first meeting." I enjoy shaking hands. Men with men seem more comfortable with this practice, but I am glad women seem to be developing ease with shaking hands both with other women and with gentlemen.
I recently passed on to daughters Susan and Beth copies of a small magazine Jackson Parents & Kids to share the recommendation of "plenty of back rubs" made in the magazine by Carol Taff and Family. It says: "Physical contact is one of the most effortless ways of showing love and acceptance. An arm around the shoulder, a pat on the knee, a tug on the arm, a quick hug, all help make children comfortable with themselves and others. The best part about this is that whatever you give, you get back."
We sometimes read or hear "I’d give my right arm for peace with ______[a certain person]." Often giving that good right arm across the shoulders is all that is needed to mend a relationship.
A military chaplain wrote of the aftermath of a tragic accident. As he and others went about seeking to minister to survivors, he noted, "Some soldiers died instantly. Others lived a short while. Some wanted to pray. Some wanted to be held."
I can think of no better way to die than being held by someone who loves me. The night my mother died, much to my regret in later years, I did not stay in her room. I asked a relative who had just come from her room what Daddy was doing. She told me Daddy was sitting by Mother’s bed patting her hand and saying "Sweetheart," his special term of endearment, over and over.
Those of you who remember Daddy will recall what an affectionate person he was. In today’s world he would probably find himself involved in one harassment suit after another. He often hugged me tightly and commented he could hug better with one arm than many men could with two.
It has been said, "Together we live, alone we die." This is often true in our excellent medical facilities. I am pleased we now have a local hospice group so families can choose to have loved ones at home--though those who cannot cope with their own individual circumstances should not feel guilty.
I have found delightful a small book entitled The Hug Therapy Book, by Kathleen Keating (CompCare Publishers, 1983), which is written "with a cheerful mix of whimsy and seriousness." Among Keating’s reasons for recommending hugging are: "It feels good; dispels loneliness; overcomes fears; opens doors to feelings; builds self-esteem ("Wow! She actually wants to hug me!"); slows down aging; helps curb appetite—we eat less when we are nourished by hugs—and when our arms are busy wrapped around others."
A Book of Hugs, by Dave Ross (published by Thomas Y. Crowell, 1980), is a similar discussion about hugs meant especially for children. It presents facts and hints about hugs and describes a variety of hugs including bear hugs, blanket hugs, sandwich hugs, winner/loser hugs, birthday hugs. Special hints include: "There is no such thing as a bad hug; there are only good hugs and great hugs." "Never hug tomorrow someone you could hug today."
I have observed at the funeral home that of those who come to express their condolences the seemingly more effective simply shake hands or embrace with warmth appropriate to their relationship. In times of sorrow the human touch seems the most effective communication. Those who are mourning often do not remember conversations but do remember the warmth of feeling arising from the presence of caring friends and family.
Many years ago we had a visiting minister at our church. As I shook hands with him as I went out the door, he drew his hand back, looked at me, and said, "Lady, are you a tennis player?" [None of us farmers’ wives knew about tennis!] I told him that I was a Baptist and a politician and that makes for a pretty firm handshake. I thought later of this brief exchange and decided perhaps I should practice a more ladylike handshake.
Our physical and emotional well-being requires the human touch. A hug can, as hug therapist Kathleen Keating says: "make happy days happier; make impossible days possible." She has good advice: "Hug often. Hug well."
When words are inadequate, a hug or a touch on the hand often can speak for us, giving and receiving acceptance and support from each other. From my personal experience, I highly recommend it!
There’s something in a simple hug
That always warms the heart;
It welcomes us back home
and makes it easier to part.
A hug’s a way to share the joy
And sad times we go through.
Or just a way for friends to say
They like you ‘cause you’re you.
Hugs are meant for anyone
For whom we really care,
From your grandma to your neighbor—
Or a cuddly teddy bear.
A hug is an amazing thing —
It’s just the perfect way
To show the love we’re feeling
But can’t find the words to say.
It’s funny how a little hug
Makes everyone feel good;
In every place and language,
It’s always understood.
And hugs don’t need equipment,
Special batteries or parts —
Just open up your arms
And open up your hearts.
The Sandwich Hug
The sandwich hug is handy for:
Three good friends.
A couple wishing to comfort someone.
Two parents and a child. The child may be very young, grown tip, or any place between.
Make your own sandwich.
—from the Hug Therapy Book by Kathleen Keating
AN ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM
DEAR ANN LANDERS: Not long ago, you printed a letter from Rose Sahli in Carmel, California. Rose spoke of how her son had died, and she wished family members and friends would talk about him more often. That letter made us think of a poem, "The Elephant in the Room." It appeared in your column a few years ago.
We have been members of The Compassionate Friends, an organization for grieving parents, since our son was killed in a freak auto accident eight years ago. Matt was 17.
This poem makes it clear that not only is it OK to talk about our dead child, but that the references are appreciated because a day never goes by that our child is not in our thoughts. We give this poem to family, friends, and co-workers to let them know how we feel. I hope you will find it worth sharing again. —South Windsor, Conn.
Dear Conn.: I published the poem in 1993 and received several letters of appreciation. Incidentally, I was among those who had the mistaken notion that it was painful for family members to hear references to a loved one who had died. Many readers called me on it, and I know better now.
The Elephant in the Room by Terry Kettering
There’s an elephant in the room.
It is large and squatting, so it is hard to get around it.
Yet we squeeze by with "How are you?" and "I’m fine."
And a thousand other forms of trivial chatter.
We talk about the weather.
We talk about work.
We talk about everything else — except the elephant in the room.
There’s an elephant in the room.
We all know it is there.
We are thinking about the elephant as we talk together.
It is constantly on our minds.
For, you see, it is a very big elephant.
It has hurt us all.
But we do not talk about the elephant in the room.
Oh, please, say her name.
Oh, please, say "Barbara" again.
Oh, please, let’s talk about the elephant in the room.
For if we talk about her death, Perhaps we can talk about her life. Can I say "Barbara" to you and not
have you look away?
For if I cannot, then you are leaving me.
Alone... In a room...
With an elephant.
—Reprinted from the Commercial Appeal with permission from Bereavement Magazine, 8133 Telegraph Drive, Colorado Springs, CO 80920
A Book of Comfort
Earl A. Grollrnan has written twenty books, which total more than a half million copies in print. He writes regularly for USA Today and is host of a weekly cable television program, "Matters of Life and Death." He has received many awards for his dedicated service to the terminally ill, the bereaved, and the caregivers. His book In Sickness and in Health: How to Cope When Your Loved One Is Ill can help you help someone close to you cope with a serious illness. It provides both emotional guidance and practical suggestions for coping in this time of crisis, showing how to offer the strength and support your loved one needs and helping them identify and express their feelings and understand what they are experiencing.
The book is available through the Beacon Press Order Department, 25 Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02108. The paperback is priced at $12 plus $4.50 for postage and handling, or you may be able to find a copy at a regular or Christian bookstore.
Magnolia Health Services and Hospice continues to conduct free education and support group meetings on the third Tuesday of every month, 6:30 -7:30 p.m., at the Baptist Memorial Hospital North Mississippi in the Magnolia Auditorium for anyone in the community who has suffered the loss of a family member, loved one, or friend. More information can be obtained by contacting the Hospice office at Magnolia Health Services and Hospice (234-8553).
One of our most prized possessions is about to be virtually destroyed! When the post office begins using the already assigned E-911 addresses, our mailing list will become obsolete. "In spite of considerable efforts and because of regulations and confidential agreements, we have not been able to obtain a conversion list" It appears we will have to depend on each individual or family to notify us of their new address. We have been regularly requesting address changes—now we are desperate!
We do not want to lose contact with you! Please mail or telephone us with your new address as soon as you are instructed to begin using it!
And then, with play and labor done,
I love to find at each day’s end
The warming handclasp of a friend.
—Edgar Daniel Kramer
Thank You, God
During a meeting of our small prayer group, the leader asked for requests, then added, "But first, let’s share some answers." Several spoke up sharing good news about the safe birth of a new grandchild, a son who finally found adios, a congregation that had weathered a crisis. It was all good news, and everyone seemed happy. Except me.
I kept thinking about something I’d prayed about for nearly a year. Oh, there had been flickers of hope. An answer often seemed on the threshold, but stayed out of reach. "Why does God answer everyone else?" I wondered secretly. "Doesn’t God like me? Maybe I should speak up, ask my fortunate friends to persuade God to answer my prayer the way I want it answered." But I kept silent.
Then I realized what I should have known all along. We don’t give our children—or anyone—everything they ask for. Instead, we may say "No," "Later," or "I have something better for you."
"Yes" isn’t the only answer to prayer. If we think God answers prayer merely when He answers our way, we reduce Him to a Santa Claus in a giant toy factory, not an all-wise Father.
So I reminded myself that God listens to all His children. He’s neither deaf nor preoccupied. Faith is believing God hears, then waiting for Him to answer according to His timetable and His wisdom, not ours. This is the meaning of Psalm 4:3b, "The Lord will hear me when I call unto Him."
—Robert J. Hastings
And may the Lord make your love to grow and overflow to each other and to everyone else, just as our love does toward you.
—I Thessalonians 3:12
We dedicate this issue of Seasons to those who died and whose families we served from May 9, 1996, through August 6, 1996.
Miss Mildred V. Roberts 5/9/96
Mrs. Sylvia Carol Mullich 5/12/96
Mr. Herbert Wade "Hook" Edwards 5/15/96
Mr. James Oliver Wiley 5/21/96
Mrs. Faye Mize Woodward 5/28/96
Mrs. Sue A. Tobias 5/29/96
Mrs. Ruth Wray Horne 6/5/96
Mr. Morris K. Floyd 6/13/96
Mrs. Sibyl Hogan Cole 6/14/96
Mr. Kenneth Bernhardt Davis 6/15/96
Mrs. Iva Pugh Street 6/24/96
Mr. Henry Kyle Hickey 6/25/96
Mrs. Edna Pippin Crittenden 6/25/96
Alexandra Dornan Barnes 7/2/96
Mr. Allen Josias 7/5/96
Mr. William Michael Murphree 7/7/96
Mrs. Sarah Kathleen Hollinger 7/11/96
Mrs. Julia McNeely Paris 7/11/96
Mrs. Faye Warren Wingo 7/15/96
Mr. Sylvester Knighton 7/17/96
Mr. William Niles Lovelady, Sr. 7/18/96
Mrs. Elizabeth Holcombe Fuller 7/21/96
Mr. Walter Russell Wimbish, Jr. 7/25/96
Mr. Spyros Dimitri Kavyas 7/29/96
Mrs. Nellie H. Rogers 7/31/96
Mrs. Roberta Howie Phay 8/1/96
Mr. Curtis Boatright 8/2/96
Mrs. Theresa L. Beeler 8/3/96
Mrs. Helen Lurline King Taylor 8/3/96
Mr. Stanley Bunion Bynum 8/4/96
Mr. Aubrey Dean Hartley 8/6/96
Mr. Le Roy Ray 8/6/96