Lessons from the Dying, Number 2: Deep Listening

© 2016 Meg Robsahm, M.Ed, LMP

Joe was fighting cancer. Despite aggressive treatments, he managed to be upbeat about his situation, and his family was there to care for him. Initially he refused my offer of palliative massage to his shoulders. When I asked him a second time I was met with, “Okay, that might be good today.” His daughters’ encouragement supported his choice.

As usual, I began our session with a slow deep breath to center myself. Soft music was playing and we enjoyed a quiet time together. Midway through the short session, soft tears streamed down his face. I was making my way behind him and chose not to call attention to his response. In fact, I was touched so very deeply that I also found myself in tears. As we ended the session, he thanked me profusely. 

We walked toward the door as I shared, “It was my pleasure to work with you today.” This is when he stopped me in my tracks, turned around to face me and said, “Oh, you need to listen to me.” He went on to say, “This is the first time in all of my cancer treatments that I have not had pain…. I can’t thank you enough.” We both cried a bit more and said good-bye with a big hug.

I thought my contact with Joe was over. A week later, surprisingly, his daughter called to schedule an appointment for him at my office. She went on to explain that she had asked her father why he finally agreed to receive bodywork from me. To my great amazement she told me this: “Dad said, ‘Because she looked at me and I thought maybe I was supposed to be touched that day.’”

And there it is: “…because she LOOKED at me…“

I find that statement filled with hope. Why? Because another human being met him eye-to-eye and heart-to-heart he opened himself to a compassionate touch. When touch was received pain was relieved. Comfort was found in the presence of another person willing to simply BE with him.

As bodyworkers, we understand that touch reaches the greatest depths of our being. Just as we listen to our clients – body and soul – with our hands, we need to remember our interactions touch them deeply, too.

Smiling warmly

Listening without interrupting

Respecting the client’s emotional process

…these are all part of the process of caring touch.

How do you listen deeply with your clients? How do your interactions touch others? What do your hands tell you as you sculpt their body in tenderness, with no other agenda?

Stay tuned for next week’s lesson: Keeping Relationships Current

If you are inspired by Meg's writing, please be sure to register for one of her continuing education courses in hospice massage here in Seattle. You will be rewarded for your commitment!