by Julie B. Sevig
I have only spent one night in the hospital as a patient. In college, I fell off my bike and hit my head on the curb, causing me to forget some key information, so medical providers wanted to keep an eye on me. But I’ve spent other nights in the hospital, too, as both daughter and mother.
I started 2015 with our 9-year-old undergoing emergency surgery for intestinal malrotation on New Year’s Eve. As a mother of three ridiculously healthy kids, this came as a complete surprise. As many parents know, illnesses, accidents, and injuries cause a sudden shift in priorities.
Those of us who find ourselves at the bedside of someone who is usually healthy, but now helpless, feel helpless, too. But it is in these times that we’re reminded of the ministry of presence and the gift of touch.
One thing I could do for my son (in addition to enduring endless hours of the Disney channel), was to massage his feet. For a week, I gave this athletic 9-year-old a foot massage any time he wanted one. In the midst of doing so, I was transported back to the last time I remember giving a foot massage—to my mother, while she was hospitalized from a stroke.
She didn’t subject me to the Disney channel when I stayed with her, but I massaged her thin, old feet whenever she wanted. The memory of doing this for my mother, and now my son—hospital stays separated by 33 years—was both sobering and significant.
My own mother, Olive, never knew this boy, Oliver, her namesake. But of course she would have loved him, and she would have been delighted that my care for her was simply a warm-up act for my caregiving skills as a mother.
I was taught well by Olive, who as both mother and nurse, knew the importance and delight for those who are ill: a warm bath, shower, or sponge bath; fresh sheets; and loving massage.
Perhaps one day I’ll be the recipient, and the caregiver’s name just might be Oliver.
Julie B. Sevig, Chicago, is managing editor of publications for the ELCA, and with her partner, Michelle, is parent to Peder, Oliver, and Annika. This blog first ran in May 2015.
Photo by Sell Your Seoul, used with permission, Creative Commons.