This is the first in a series of blogs about experiences I have had as a massage therapist. My intention for sharing these is to explore the many and varied ways massage therapy touches the lives of both therapist and client, as we travel our own unique journey.
I had entered this particular room in PICU, at Children’s Hospital, twice a week for the past several weeks. Prior to that I had worked with this little 4 year old girl on the pediatric floor. I had been following her and her mom for the past year as they went through the process of diagnosis, treatment and now the last process, her transition from this life. In PICU she was no longer conscious and was supported by many machines to keep her in the living world. Her mother was processing the very somber fact that her daughter would not be coming back to her. Her mother was graciously allowed to let her daughter transition in her own time and under her own terms. I will not forget the sensitivity and devotion the hospital was showing to this family.
I was touched by so many different aspects of this, specifically the courage and joy I’d seen in them from the very start. This little girl, with a myriad of handicaps, disorders and diseases was one of the child stars of the pediatric floor. Every doctor, nurse, aid, volunteer and staff member knew her and would light up when they saw her and she would light up too. She was special and she touched many lives. Her mother was special too. The two of them were a seamless, dynamic team. They did what they needed to do, they felt what they needed to feel and they were always sharing their own found joy and acceptance with the rest of us.
In one of our last sessions it began to become clear that her mother was beginning to accept the inevitable. She had talked to me, on more than one occasion, about having to decide to let her little princess go. She told me she wasn’t ready to but understood she needed to. She knew in her heart that it was the only thing she could do to support her daughter, but she needed a little more time. She was anxious and excited to show me the beautiful purple, taffeta, floor length dress her family had gotten to have her daughter buried in. I could feel how proud she was to have the perfect dress for the perfect little princess she was about to surrender. I was struck by the importance this symbol had for her and could see, and feel under my fingers, her relief and resolve. In our past several sessions she had not been able to relax during her massage but today she seemed to have a calm about her, and her muscles seemed to be accepting my touch as she was accepting the inevitable.
I had one more session with this family. I did not know it would be my last time to touch and comfort this little girl and her mother. I had been silently saying my final goodbyes to them each time I left, not knowing if they would be there the next time I came around. This visit was different, I could feel a calm and quiet in the room, I could sense it from her mom, I looked around and everything was the same as it had been for weeks. The beautiful purple, taffeta, dress was still hanging majestically on the wall at the end of the bed, so her little girl would know it was there, that’s what her mother would tell me.
When I left that day we exchanged what had been our normal goodbyes. Her mother thanked me whole heartedly and told me how helpful having these massages was to her and to her little girl. She always reassured me that her little girl knew I was there and loved the massage. I gave her a hug and held the little girls hand and told them they were an inspiration to me and will be in my thoughts.
The next time I made my rounds and approached their room I could feel it before I saw it. They were no longer there and the room was empty. The lesson I learned from them struck me deep down in my gut and remains there to this day. It was a lesson about the power of courage, love, determination and letting go, in our own time and our own unique way. And in that moment the tremendous loss I felt at not seeing them there and knowing what that meant, was replaced with my gratitude at having the opportunity to know them and walk a few steps with them along their journey.