Massage & Bodywork

JANUARY | FEBRUARY 2021

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L i s te n to T h e A B M P Po d c a s t a t a b m p.co m /p o d c a s t s o r w h e reve r yo u a cce s s yo u r favo r i te p o d c a s t s 15 I felt like I knew her well. It turned out that she felt the same. Nancy had been telling her stories about me too. There was definitely a comfortable familiarity even though it was our first meeting. When I walked into the house, I saw Nancy lying in a hospital bed set up in the living room. Her daughter gave me a chair and I sat next to Nancy's bed. She was clearly exhausted and looked so small to me. She couldn't speak much, but we were still able to catch up. She asked me familiar questions with one word, and I did most of the talking. Eventually, I could see she needed to sleep, so I told her I would leave so she could get some rest. She reached for my hand and held it tight. She looked up at me, and told me how grateful she was for me. I let the tears fall, and I thanked her for being my friend. She told me she loved me, and I told her I loved her too and would remember her always. I told her to drink plenty of water, as I often did at the end of our office visits, and she took a deep breath and said, "Well, you're no fun." I laughed through the tears and held her hand tight for a few more moments. I stood and told her goodbye as I kissed the top of her head. I hugged her daughter and thanked her for letting me say goodbye, and I left. My heart had never been so heavy. Nancy's friendship was unexpected. When I met her I had no idea how much she would mean to me. I'm so grateful for the time I had with her, and I'm so grateful I got to say goodbye. I'm humbled that she thought of me, her massage therapist, in her last days on this earth. In school, we don't really talk about how connected you can become to clients, especially if you see them regularly. We are taught to establish emotional and When COVID hit, Nancy was one of the first people I thought of. By then, I had her phone number, and I texted her and begged her to stay safe. Being on chemotherapy and a slew of other drugs, her immune system was compromised, and she only had one fully working lung. She was pretty stubborn, but she agreed and said she and her husband would quarantine at her cabin with her family. I jokingly told her to make sure she had plenty of toilet paper. She responded, "I've got TP, vodka, and porn, so I'm set." I laughed and was grateful that her fire was still intact—and that she wasn't being too stubborn about not being able to go out and about as she pleased. I checked on Nancy here and there throughout the spring even though I wasn't working for about three months due to the pandemic. When I finally went back to work in early July, I wasn't expecting to see her as the virus was (and still is) dangerous for people with weak immune systems and health conditions. I hadn't heard from her in a few weeks, and I was driving home from a family trip to our cottage when I got a text from her number written by her daughter. She told me that her mom was in hospice care at her home, and Nancy wanted to let me know that she was thinking of me and appreciated our friendship. As my eyes began to well up with tears, I responded and asked if Nancy wanted any visitors. I was surprised but relieved when she told me yes. Her daughter and I set up a time later in the week for me to visit. I had never experienced anything like that before. I've never had to say goodbye to anyone. Knowing it would be the last time I would see someone I cared deeply for shook me to my core. My heart was already aching for my friend and her family. I arrived at her daughter's house on a rainy day around noon. I had never met her daughter, but after years of hearing stories about her, In school, we don't really talk about how connected you can become to clients, especially if you see them regularly. We are born to bond, encourage, and commiserate with other humans. social boundaries with our clients in order to remain safe and professional. I completely understand the importance of boundaries, and I agree that they are necessary in our profession. However, as humans, we naturally crave connection. We are born to bond, encourage, and commiserate with other humans. During our time with our clients, we slowly learn about their lives and what makes their hearts beat. It feels so routine, we don't even realize an unavoidable bond is forming. For some clients, the conversational part of the session is just as needed as the bodywork. I'm not implying every therapist should freely cross boundary lines—and I know not every person is the same—but if a client offers you freshly baked cookies, take the cookies. I know there are a lot of therapists who work in hospitals and have to deal with the loss of a client quite often, but it was a first for me. Although I wouldn't trade our friendship, or the opportunity I had to say goodbye for anything, I'm struggling with my grief. No one in my life had ever really met Nancy, so even though I have an amazing support system, sometimes I feel like I'm going through it alone. I know with time my heart will lighten, but until then I'll hold my grief close—and I'll remember my friend smiling and full of fire. Samantha Lynn is a writer and massage therapist from Michigan. She graduated from Central Michigan University with a bachelor's degree in English literature in 2012. She lives with her husband and two fur babies, Juno and Sophie. She loves to read, write, travel, and practice yoga. For more information, visit samantha-lynn.com.

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