Touch – #FMF

For the past forty five minutes, as the children from our church gave a dress rehearsal performance at our local nursing home, I had watched this woman in a wheelchair. I couldn’t help but keep my eyes on her. She methodically swung her left leg forward then back. On each second swing, she pushed back a little, inching her way to the wall where I stood.

Swing. Swing. Push. 

Swing. Swing. Push. 

Only ten minutes into the song and narration, she had pushed her way backwards to me. I jutted out my foot and made the toe of my tennis shoes into a stopper. I had parents to the right of me, parents to the left. Trapped, I tried to think of grace and how Jesus would smile at this woman He had known since she was formed in her mother’s womb. Her left leg still moved.

Swing. Swing. Push.

Swing. Swing. Push.

She smelled of urine and something else that made me consider diaper days when my own children were young. I shifted my weight and leaned my head a little to the right. The smell wasn’t quite so strong there. I forced myself to think of the musical’s story line. Jesus. Nicodemus. You must be born again.

Swing. Swing. Push. 

Swing. Swing. Push.

At the end of the performance, the children streamed from the stage to their parents. Orderlies dressed in colorful cartoon scrubs trickled in from the doorway in the back, unlocking wheelchairs, tucking in wayward lap quilts, maneuvering the residents in their conveyances, much like turning ships at sea. Finally, the parents around me ebbed away from the wall and I could move.

Swing. Swing. Push.

Swing. Swing. Push.

The brightly painted cinder block wall stopped her retreat. That’s when I looked in her face. That’s when she looked in mine.

“I’m so glad you came,” I said and held out my hand to her.

I was surprised at the strength she had as she snatched my right hand in both of hers. Her cold hands were just wrinkled skin draped on bone, yet her grip made me think of the documentary about ospreys I watched a few weeks back.

Her lips moved, but I couldn’t quite catch the sounds, so I leaned over. I tried not to inhale too deeply.

“I’m 98.”

I smiled and patted her soft, wrinkly, cold hands with my one free hand that had escaped her talon grip.

“Wow.” I  looked into her pale grey eyes.

“Sometimes, I don’t remember things.”

I knelt beside her then, the tiles of the floor cold on my knees even through my blue jeans.

“That’s okay,” I said. And I meant it.

Suddenly, all I wanted was to make her know that it really was okay. I needed for it to be okay. If I made it another 51 years to 98 myself, I might need the touch of grace that declared how okay it was to be able to sit in a wheelchair, inching my way backwards, smelling of those things I could no longer control, waiting with cold hands to feel something real and warm.

We remained there – she in her wheelchair and I on my knees – hands locked in embrace, eyes speaking with no words, giving and receiving permission to just be okay in that one moment.

Then the orderly came in her colorful cartoon scrubs and I tried to remove my hands from hers with as much tenderness and respect as I could.

Back in the car, I pressed my hands together and thought: Swing. Swing. Push. 

As I drove away, I prayed to remember this journey toward touch.

Categories: #FMF

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