Last night I watched Will comforting his giant beanie boo monkey, Cocoa Jr. He was hugging him, rubbing his back and whispering into his ear, ‘Sssh my love, sssh. It makes me sad when you’re sad, tell me why you’re sad.’ He was mimicking me and all the times I’ve rocked him back and forth in the last seven plus years trying to quell his tears. It was a beautiful thing to watch.
It made me think about how a touch is beyond powerful. More powerful than words.
My grandmother suffered from dementia. One of these times, she had broken something (a hip?) and was in the hospital. My mother was also fighting cancer at the same time and couldn’t risk being at the hospital. I sat with my grandmother for three days while she ranted and raved in a drug induced psychosis. I’ve never seen anything like it. She accused me of everything under the sun. She used language that would horrify most truckers. She was out of her mind. My mother finally couldn’t take it and she masked herself up and came to the hospital. She took my grandmother’s hands in hers and I swear, instantly my grandmother was quiet. She looked into my mothers eyes and said, ‘Diane? Diane is it you?’. She just needed to know that my mom was still there.
A few months later my mother died. I sat by her bedside before they took her body away and put her hand to my cheek. I wanted to sear it there so I could always feel it. It worked. As crazy as it may sound, I can close my eyes whenever I want and I can feel that hand touching my cheek and I know she’s still here.
A few weeks ago, Will had pushed me to the limit. I’m not even sure what it was about anymore. I texted my friend Susannah and I said, ‘I may murder him tonight.’ In five minutes, there was a knock at my door and she was there, just wanting to give me a hug. I just needed to know that someone was still here.
Last year, Will and I joined a slew of our neighbours to walk to raise money for Alzheimer’s research. We did it to show our friend Michelle and her family that we are still here and that we will always know that her mom is as well. Michelle’s mom Heather is living with Alzheimer’s. It has cruelly robbed her of her speech. Everything is communicated with a look and touch. If you ever doubt the power of a touch, hug Heather. I just met her in person last year at the walk and the hug we shared said more than words could have.
In a couple of weeks, we are walking again. Will is more aware this year of the tragedy that is Alzheimer’s disease. His grandma Shirley (family by love and not blood) has been fighting a difficult battle with it this year. When we saw her at Christmas, I explained to Will that she wouldn’t know him anymore and that calling her Mrs. Stone would be easier for her. He was nervous. The kid walked into her residence, wrapped his arms around her and said, ‘Hi Mrs. Stone’. She beamed and he immediately was at ease. That hug, that touch, let them both know that the other was still here.
January is Alzheimer’s Awareness month. Their awareness campaign is brilliant and focused on the fact that life doesn’t end when Alzheimer’s begin. Those suffering with Alzheimer’s and dementia are still here (the hashtag is #stillhere). If you’d like to donate to our team Heather Feather’s please just click here to Will’s fundraising page. And never ever forget the power that you have to change someone with just one touch.