Massage and Hospice: My First Experience
Although the Massage/Bodywork profession has provided me with many lessons and perspective-altering experiences, one of the most profound of these was with my first hospice patient, Joy. (Note: all names have been changed to preserve confidentiality).
When I arrived, Joy’s nurse said, “That patient is dying.” I said, “I know.” She replied, “No, I mean Joy is actively dying.” I said, “I know.” Somehow, I knew exactly what she meant, even before she explained.
Walking to Joy’s room, I was a little panicked. Why was I here? What was I supposed to do? I had zero experience with helping someone during the dying process. And yet, we had scheduled this appointment six weeks ago. I took a deep breath and silently prayed, “Someone better help me out here, because I don’t know what I’m doing!”
Joy’s sister and her niece were at her bedside. I introduced myself and offered to leave if I was intruding. Her sister answered, “You are her birthday present from her best friend, Hope. Please stay.”
The room filled with the sounds of the relaxing music I brought with me. I grounded and centered myself, and continued to silently ask for guidance. I set my intention for her highest good.
As I worked, Joy’s sister began to tell me about Joy’s life, and how they would miss her. She began to cry as she was talking. I could feel the tears beginning to burn my own eyes. My first thought was, “Oh, no! I can’t cry! That would be so unprofessional”. But this thought was immediately replaced with, “No. It’s so human.” I cried and I laughed with them, as I touched Joy, using only very gentle massage and energy balancing techniques.
A tear ran down Joy’s cheek. Her niece asked, “Why is she crying?” Again somehow I knew the answer: ”She doesn't want you to be sad,” I replied. In that moment I also knew why I was there, why she had waited for me: I was supposed to help her family let her go.
I had been in Joy’s room from 2pm until about 3:10pm. She died peacefully at 4:20pm. I was overwhelmed with feelings.
What I mostly felt was honored: honored to have been allowed to share in such a private, important moment in this family’s life. I also felt blessed that I had received the guidance to make the space to know what this patient and her family needed.
If someone had told me that morning that I was to help someone die, I would have said, ”Absolutely not. Find someone else. I don’t know how to do that!” But apparently I did. I say this because I received a thank you note from Hope telling me that, at the funeral, Joy’s family could not stop talking about the “little angel who showed up to help her die.” What they don’t know is how they changed my life. It is because of this profound experience that I was drawn to work with more hospice patients.
I will be forever grateful to Hope, Joy and her family for leading me to a path I never knew I wanted to travel.
Mary Cheers, LMT, RMT
Written January, 2012
Note: This article has previously appeared:
Hands Across Ohio: Spring, 2012 (AMTA-OH Chapter Newsletter)
Energy, Spring 2012: (Newsletter, American Polarity Therapy Association)
Irene Smith’s blog: http://futurelmt.com/lmt-blog/everflowing/ January, 2013
Our Current Health Care System Killed My Dad
Our current health care system killed my Dad.
An outrageous statement? I wish it was.
Let me explain.
If the system worked the way it did 40 years ago, when my Dad first developed abdominal pain, I would have taken him to his family doctor. This doctor knows my Dad. He knows that when my Dad complains, there is something really wrong. He would not have stopped when the tests came back “within normal limits.” He would have run more tests, consulted with a gastroenterologist and other specialists until he found the answer. His early diagnosis could have saved my Dad from a lot of unnecessary pain. It may have saved his life.
But it is not 40 years ago, and this is not what happened.
Instead, my Dad was seen in 2 different emergency rooms by medical professionals, who were all very nice, but they didn’t know him. They didn’t listen when he said he was in severe pain. They didn’t listen to me when I tried to tell them how vital and cognizant my 92 year old father always is when he is not out of his mind with pain. They didn’t order the right tests until his abdomen became rigid. They didn’t know his bowel was perforated until it was too late.
Perhaps it was arrogance that prevented the hospitalist (primary care physician of a hospitalized patient) from consulting with a gastroenterologist. Perhaps Dad didn’t meet the Medicare/insurance company criteria to allow for a consult. Perhaps none of this would have saved his life. We’ll never know.
I am not talking about the malpractice of any one institution or any one doctor. I am talking about the malpractice that began when the medical profession stopped being patient centered and became big business. When the insurance companies started telling doctors how they were allowed to practice, rather than allowing the people with the medical degrees to make the decisions. When schedules were set up for the convenience of the employees, (i.e.: 12hour shifts, 7 days in a row and then 7 days off), rather than having employees work hours that promote their best performances.
I’m talking about the malpractice that began when Greed replaced patient care as the driving force of our health care system.
The same health care system that killed my Dad.
January 15, 2011
Lost in the halls of my mind
Chasing after memories
Memories I cannot find.
Who did I used to be?
Who is me?
Who is Me?
And I don’t remember why
Written circa 2009
middle of the night
Thinking about my Mom’s Alzheimer’s Disease
A Reiki Story
On September 19, 2007, I had an opportunity to see “Bodies: the Exhibition,” in Columbus, Ohio. As an educator, I received 2 complimentary tickets, so I took my friend and colleague, Marylin, with me.
We were very excited, as we had seen and heard good reviews about BodyWorlds.
My habit whenever I begin any cadaver study is to mentally thank the spirit of the person who donated their body so we could learn anatomy. I decided this would be a good thing to do as I began to walk through the exhibit. When I did so, however, I heard a resounding, “Wasn’t my idea!” I was stunned.
As we continued to walk, I realized this was not the same exhibit as Bodyworlds, from Austria. The plastination process of preservation was the same, but this exhibit was from China. (China: where some areas still have such little respect for life, that they kill baby girls!) I had heard a rumor that these bodies were the bodies of prisoners; not volunteers as in Bodyworlds. I was becoming increasingly uneasy.
Most of the bodies were men, but there were a few women. As I walked up to one woman who was posed with her hand on her hip, I got a very strong feeling of violation.
At that moment, Marylin came up behind me and said, “Whoa! She really doesn’t want to be here!” I replied,”I know! That is just what I was thinking!”
The last exhibit room had infants who had supposedly died from pregnancy complications.
One body was a baby girl, older than an infant, who had spina bifida. Her face was contorted in a scream.
That was it. I told Marylin not to look, and we left as fast as we could.
For the next two weeks I had nightmares. I don’t remember much detail, just that they were about the spirits of the cadavers. I wasn’t frightened. I felt very sad for the spirits.
They were not at peace.
One night I was awakened at 3AM by a particularly disturbing nightmare. (Again, no details, but I knew it concerned these spirits.) Since I had taken my Reiki II class the month before, and learned that Reiki can be sent into the past and/or the future, I decided to send Reiki healing to these spirits.
I immediately fell back to sleep.
The nightmares concerning these spirits have stopped.
Integrating Our Spiritual Values with our Business Model
As a professional bodyworker for the past 26+ years, and an instructor for the past 22 years, I am still amazed and dismayed at the number of excellent bodyworkers who are unsuccessful because they don’t believe they can market their businesses without compromising their integrity.
I think the main reason this topic so challenging is due to the tendency in our culture to compartmentalize and fragment everything. Just as many members of our current health care system fail to recognize the importance of the body/mind/spirit connection, separating our therapy sessions from our marketing and from our core beliefs & philosophy, can hinder our success.
In our fragmented culture, we tend to view business as separate from our core beliefs and philosophy. We frequently hear the statement, “It’s not personal, it’s just business,” as if that is an excuse for bad behavior.
The truth is, I cannot claim to be honest and ethical unless I incorporate my values into my business as well as my personal life.
Luckily, the same principles that make a great therapy session can be used to create a successful bodywork business. To do this, we must include the more mystical aspects of our work. (NOTE: Here I am defining mystical as the power of our spirituality, not as mysterious and beyond human understanding.)
First of all, we have our intention. Whether marketing or treating clients, we always set our intention for the highest good, theirs and ours. With marketing, sometimes that means we will convince the potential client to give bodywork a try, and sometimes not. Either way, we wish them well.
Next we need to be grounded, centered and present. In this place, we are our most authentic selves. That means we are in the moment, in our own bodies, rather than allowing ourselves to be distracted by extraneous thoughts. Our focus is on the person who is right in front of us. And people feel our focus, whether our hands are giving them a session, or we are marketing to them by educating them about how bodywork can enhance their life.
Happily, I have discovered that these principles not only enhance my business and the lives of my clients, but my own life as well.
In one of my favorite inspirational books, The Four-Fold Way, anthropologist and mystic, Angeles Arrien, outlines four principles for living in a way that will heal ourselves as well and our fragmented world. The four principles are:
1. show up
2. pay attention
3. tell the truth, as you know it
4. let go of the outcome
As I began to incorporate her four principles into my life, I recognized some similarities. “Showing up” is another way of saying, get grounded and centered. When I “pay attention,” I am present and in the moment. ”Telling the truth” involves self awareness grounded in courage and integrity. And finally, when I “let go of the outcome” I am doing the best I can, setting my intention for the highest good and then accepting whatever happens.
In doing this, bodywork has become a way of life for me. The principles of grounding, centering being present in the moment, setting my intention for the highest good are guidelines I strive to incorporate, not just in my treatment room, and in my bodywork business, but in all aspects of my life. When I forget to do this, I am disconnected from myself and others. When I remember, I am following a mystical path.
Connecting the love in our hearts with our intellects allows our hands to make connections with our clients. Connecting our bodywork skills, our core beliefs and philosophy with our marketing creates a conscious and mystical business. Our business then becomes an extension of who we are, not a compromise of our integrity. And in doing so, I believe we will help to heal the world, including the business world, one body at a time.
May 4, 2014
Note: This article first appeared in THE ENERGY TIMES, Summer, 2014 (American Polarity Therapy Assiociation newsletter)