Touching is Nice, Except When it’s Not

two person holding hands while sitting on grey cushion
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While on a recent vacation in Mexico I went to the spa for a back massage.  When the masseuse asked if the pressure was proper, I responded, “yes, it’s fine.”  I think she heard me say, “please press your elbow into my spine and push.  Then, move your elbow up and down my back giving special attention to my kidneys.”  At the completion of the massage, I was barely able to get off the table.

Though I didn’t appreciate the power of her touch that day, none-the-less, touch is a mighty force in our lives.  Touch can convey a range of emotion.  A slap on the face might let a young man know his advances are offensive to a lady.  A punch in the nose might allow one man to express his opinion of his comment or behavior to another man.  I learned as a young boy a smack on my bottom expressed disapproval when I misbehaved.

There was not much affectionate touching in my home growing up.  My father and mother both had their hands full raising four boys, so they didn’t give us much slack.  My mother was a homemaker.  So, being the parent at home, she was responsible for most of the discipline.

However, we understood my father was the supreme commander of the home.  All he had to do was unbuckle his belt to get my behavior in line.  I will always remember the few times he removed the belt and used it on my bottom.  I also learned in one lesson not to mock my father by saying, “that didn’t hurt.”

Though both my parents were strict disciplinarians, we never felt unloved.  We felt safe, secure, and protected.  We felt our parents love by the way they cared for and provided for us even though they didn’t often express their affection.  Then, I married my wife.

After the wedding ceremony, we stood in a reception line greeting our guests as they exited the church sanctuary.  My father and mother shook hands with the guests while my in-laws hugged many of their family and friends.  My father whispered in my ear, “they’re huggers, aren’t they”?  I smiled and nodded affirmatively.

Years later after my father retired from his stressful job and softened with the arrival of grandchildren, he got accustomed to the hugs.  In time I joined the line of grandchildren to hug my parents as we departed to our home in a distant state.  As they age, I would embrace them like it was the last time, because I always knew it could be.  One day a few years ago I gave my father a goodbye hug, and it was our last.  He died unexpectedly just a few weeks before my next visit.  It hurts to think I will never hug him again.

But I still have my mother, and she beams when the grandchildren and great-grandchildren hug her.  Touch is a powerful expression of love that never leaves us, even with dementia.  Though she may not remember their names, she appreciates their loving touch.  Those with dementia will feel the comforting touch until the end, so it is important to express our love by touching, stroking, and patting.

Touching calms the agitated dementia patient if done correctly.  It is important not to approach them from behind or put your hand on their shoulder.  Approach them with your hands and arms lowered.  Speak softly and while standing beside them, gently take them by the hand.  They will almost always walk with you wherever they are led.

A kind and gentle touch express the love of God, and it expresses kindness, goodness, and peace.  I suppose the handshake developed because of the power of touch.

Galatians 5:22 NASB – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.

© Copyright 2018 Ronald Milburn

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