Yesterday, I went to give a massage to Bette. * Bette, a 30+ year resident of a local nursing home, had received a gift certificate for a massage or Christmas, and was finally ready to redeem it. Bette had suffered a traumatic brain injury many years ago, and although cognitively functional, was not able to speak on the telephone. Bette’s mother, Rita, therefore, made the appointment. Rita is a resident of the same nursing home, having moved there from her independent living apartment last summer. Rita had received a couple of massage from me right after she moved in, but as we talked she was most concerned that her daughter was able to enjoy her appointment.
When I arrived, Bette showed me to her room, and Rita was waiting there. Bette indicated that Rita could stay during the massage, to Rita’s great relief. Bette positioned her wheelchair, and Rita took a chair across the room. As Bette and I talked, Rita pulled some sewing out of a bag — one of Bette’s dresses — and proceeded to hem. I should mention here that Bette is in her late 60s and Rita is in her early 90s.
About 10 minutes into the massage, Bette had her eyes closed and her breathing had slowed to that state which I think of as “melty.” She had stopped trying to “help” me, and was completely in her massage experience. I glanced over to Rita. Rita looked intently at her daughter, taking in Bette’s relaxed state. As she watched her daughter, the look on Rita’s face was the same as a mother’s hand stroking her newborn child’s sleeping head.
I have been told that my style as a massage therapist is “maternal,” but I never quite understood what a compliment that was until I saw Rita watching her daughter. The intensity of love and relief as she watched her beloved child gain some relief from pain was almost too much to take in. I will remember yesterday for the rest of my life as a beautiful and transcendent moment in my career.
*–names and some identifying details have been changed