Benjy, my first-born, who was five years old at the time, came into my father's room to say goodbye. He walked to the end of my father's bed and in a clear voice asked him very simply,
"Grandpa, are you going to die?" To which my father answered, as the adults around him teared up,
"Yes. I think I am."
Benjy responded without hesitation,
"Well can I come and hold your hand?"
Benjy then took up residence next to my father, took hold of his jaundiced hand, smiled at him and said nothing more.
On Yom Kippur (the Jewish Day of Atonement), the synagogue service includes the recitation of a memorial prayer for those close relatives we have loved and lost. Last Saturday, as these memorial prayers began, emotions were palpable. Certainly close to where I was standing were adults and children mourning the deaths of their parents, spouses, siblings and friends. Feelings were raw, as feelings can be after a few short months or after even more than 30 years since that loss.
We were also mourning what we had lost because of who we had lost. We were mourning the lost opportunities for our loved ones to share graduations and weddings and grandchildren. Memories we have experienced or will do, without them being physically present.
Each person was wrapped in their own private grief. Each a little island of memories, sadness and perhaps regret.
What can you say that is of comfort at these times? What can you do to make each person's agony a little less lonely?
An answer to this question is what Benjy taught me at my father's bedside.
The feel of the warmth of another human-being, beside you, quiet and alert can provide tremendous comfort, without them uttering a word.
You can give the gift of being close by, present and aware. For someone who is in emotional pain, you can put your hand over their hand, your arm around their shoulders and listen and nod or sit quietly and say nothing at all.
There is no need for words, except perhaps to ask permission to lean in and connect through touch.
The act of reaching across the invisible gap, looking into someone's eyes and touching their arm can say more than any words can express.
Today as we have heard about yet another senseless shooting, this time at the Navy Yard in Washington DC, the Nation's Capital, a sense of the lack of control in our lives comes bubbling to the surface. This is when I think human connection through touch becomes one of the greatest comforts we can give and receive.
This is a time to step away from our computers and laptops and cell phones and to physically make contact with people we care about.
When we hug our children, spouses, parents, friends, neighbors and co-workers we reiterate that human connection. A touch of love and comfort is what we all crave at emotionally fragile moments.
A touch reminds us that there is so much kindness and compassion that we can give each other by being present. Which in turn gives us strength and courage to continue to face difficult times ahead.
Thank you Benjy.
Free hugs available all this week and beyond -
You might also find comfort in these posts:-
Memories Not For Sale
5 Ways to Bring Comfort in Times of Grief or Distress
Moving From Hurt to Healing:How 1 Step Back Can Take You 2 Steps Forward
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