Today marks two months without my beloved. Two months without a kiss or a hug or a pinch of my butt. Pete would often sneak a pinch of my butt and then with a smile, he would say, “I paid $14 for that pinch.”
We had a running joke about our marriage license costing $28 and each of us paid half. And so for the bargain price of $14, Pete could pinch my butt whenever he wanted to.
The other day, my grandson Mateo and I were settling in for a nap in my bed. He was laying half on Pete’s side of the bed, half on mine and we were laying close with my arm around him and I was suddenly aware of how beautiful touch feels. My arm wrapped around his. Our warmth together.
One week after Pete died, my girlfriends had planned a spa day together. I am a regular with massages. I keep a lot of stress in my body (as we all do); This spa party was not with my regular massage therapist. And I had not been touched in this way since Pete’s death. Realizing I was anxious, I emailed the spa ahead of time to tell them my story and ask that they assign the right therapist to me.
They understood and had assigned a therapist who did energy work as well as massage. She had lost a love as well in her lifetime and understood the odd sensation of being touched by another. We started in a prayerful manner by my head and then I can best describe her massage of me as lightly petting me everywhere. She never used strong touch or deep massage techniques. She just moved her hands over each inch of my body finishing with my feet.
I cried a bit but mostly I allowed myself to feel the sensation of being touched. And I was thankful for the safety and warmth of the experience.
I practiced the Japanese healing art called Reiki. For me, as a Christian practitioner, my practice is about sensing the person’s energy and prayerfully asking the Holy Spirit for healing which I feel/sense as the moving energy in the room. I have spent a lot of time in people’s energy. I have honed a skill in differentiating my energy from others’ energy. I have learned to name or describe certain energy in a room, with a person but most importantly within myself.
The practice of Reiki for me has been primarily self-discovery. After all, isn’t this how we are able to serve others. Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”
Since Pete’s death, I sense differences in my own internal self. For example, I almost always have a humming sensation around the part of my body that holds my heart. And most of my upper back is tight, as if protecting the “back door of my heart.”
A couple weeks after Pete’s death, my daughter in law to be, Teal and I planned to go for a foot massage at an Asian massage place around the corner from her home. But when we got there, we thought, “Let’s do an hour.” And I thought, “Well, if I’m doing an hour, I’m going to have her do my back.” So as I settled on the table, I took a deep breath and suddenly realized I was about to have someone who does not speak my language work out the muscles and energy of my back and I would not be able to communicate what is going on with me. I should know better, I thought to myself.
So I took another breath, I said a prayer and I decided I would deal with whatever consequences there might be from this experience tomorrow. Well… if my back was the floorplan of my interior life (my emotions, my hurt, my joy, my worry, my grief) she opened up every dang room and every dang closet. I was swept clean – and I was left vulnerable and exposed.
So I spent the next couple days breathing in God’s love for me, trusting my love for myself and accepting the love from so many around me.
A couple weeks after, I went to a trusted massage therapist, who not only speaks the same language as me, she knew Pete and loves me. She used a bit harder touch but not as hard as would be typical for me. When she got to my shoulders, I had an overwhelming sensation that something was leaving, like a package and internally I started to grab for it, to save it. Then I am not kidding - Pete swooped into the room and with his sternest voice he said, “You have got to let that go.”
I started to object but he cut me off. With the same stern voice but this time filled with deep sympathy, he said, “You should never have had to carry that in the first place.”
I believe (although I can’t be completely sure) the package was filled with the weight of caring for him. In one fell swoop, the responsibility, the worry, the stress, the joy and love of caring for him as he has been sick left me.
I cried through the rest of the massage.
Our bodies carry trauma with them. Life happens and things stick to us. Sometimes things burrow inside of us and although talk therapy is invaluable, we need to honor the physicality of our lives. Not all of who we are happens in our thoughts. We are bodies. We are amazing bodies. Bodies that protect us and keep us. They move for us and serve us. And they take a beating because of us – inside and outside.
Last week, I had my annual visit to the OBGYN. I hadn’t really thought about the visit until I parked my car.
I texted Faith, “I’m at OBGYN… this appointment is never fun but it feels even more weird without anyone else touching me. Too much info but needed to say it.”
She texted back, “[sad emoji] I know you miss his hands.”
How absolutely true. I miss his hands. I miss his touch. I miss the warmth of his body beside mine. I miss the hugs and the kisses and the pinches of my butt.