Thoughts from the front porch
The Power of Touch
At the nursing home this week, I met Ruby. She was one of those people most people don’t want to be near. Hair disheveled, teeth rotten, breath horrible, and she wiped her nose with her hands. Ruby looked and acted like a stroke victim, her hands not moving well, almost as if they were paralyzed, and speech slurred, with few audible words.
She came into the sitting room where Steve and June and I were having our “church service,” and parked her chair right beside the piano, getting as close as possible, watching my fingers on the keys and grunting incoherent words as I played. She was an utter mess, but you could tell she was happy, joyful even. One of the nurses said she used to play the piano at her church. So, I asked her about it. A huge smile spread across her face.
“Yeah, yeah,” she grunted.
My heart went out to her. How would I feel if I couldn’t play the piano any more? I’d probably have my chair parked beside the pianist, too. Music moves the soul like nothing else.
As I started to play, she tried to sing along but the words were lost to her, I recognized very few. However, I knew she knew every word of every song even though she could no longer sing.
I started asking her if she knew the song before we sang each one.
“Uh huh … yeah, yeah.”
The grunts continued to pour out with this great big wonderful rotten tooth grin on her face.
When we were almost finished with the singing, she tried to tell me a song she wanted to sing. I couldn’t make it out, I asked her again, I still couldn’t understand. I looked to the others. They tried to understand. Nothing. We could understand nothing.
She kept struggling for words, they just weren’t coming.
My heart was grieving for her, I wished I could read her mind. I started praying for the Lord to help me understand.
Finally frustrated, she flung her hands in the air, as if by doing so, it would help her get the words out. Tears filled her eyes, and mine. She was trapped in a body that didn’t listen to her commands any more.
Then, His still small voice said, “Touch her.”
“Touch her?! Lord, are you kidding me? She just used her hands as Kleenex! You know I could barely wipe my own kid’s noses when they were young.”
Just the thought was making me nauseous, but I knew I had to. God was whispering the key to unlock her voice and I had to listen.
Reaching out, wrapping my hands around hers, softly I said, “Take your time Ruby, what song do you want to sing?”
Looking into her tear filled eyes, I could see the excitement and joy return to her face. One more time she tried to tell me the song she so desperately wanted to sing, and finally the words came tumbling out, strong and clear.
The first coherent words she’d spoken all evening came rushing out, “Jesus Loves Me! Jesus Loves Me!”
She wanted to sing “Jesus Loves Me.” And so we did.
Ruby cried and so did I. So, do I even now as I write this. The clearest words she’d spoken all night, “Jesus Loves Me.”
“Jesus Loves Me, This I know, for the Bible tells me so..... Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so.” Ruby sang. Though the words to the other songs were not clear, the words to this song were, every one. And I was reminded of just how much Jesus does love us.
Memory fading, …. though she could barely speak a word, she found the strength to mutter, “Jesus Loves Me,” and find complete joy in that fact.
I was also reminded of the power of touch. When Jesus healed people, most often He touched them in some way. When the blessing was passed from father to son, touch was always involved. When I went to my new church, one of the most wonderful gifts given to me was when a member of my Sunday School class spontaneously hugged me. I needed it. He wasn’t afraid to reach out and touch, he wasn’t afraid to hug the single woman at church.
The power of touch. Today, it helped Ruby speak. It heals. It loves. It is an example of Christ we gift to others.
Does someone need the healing power of your touch today?
From My Heart to Yours,
The Salve of Friendship