I am learning that Care Through Touch is much more than "hands-on work,” it is "heart-work." It is a way of life, a way of "being" in the world.
Watch a video about the work we have been doing with the Integrated Pain Management Program at Tom Waddell Urban Health Clinic for the last 22 years
Watch the video here.
The Sisters of Mercy acknowledge the Care Through Touch Institute
Read the story here.
Treat For the Feet on Holy Thursday
On Holy Thursday April 13, 2017, twenty-four Care Through Touch volunteers gave nearly eighty-some foot massages to poor and homeless people throughout the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco. It was a glorious display of fun and faith; hope and joy; care and love. “This is what makes this day HOLY for me”, said one of the volunteers. Thanks to all; and thanks to ALL who have participated in the past twenty-four Holy Thursdays!!!
Tenderloin Immersion Day
On Monday, March 28, 2016 twelve Sabbatical students from the School of Applied Theology, an affiliate of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA came to CTI for an Immersion experience: Compassionate Immersion into Poverty and Homelessness. Such experiences invite participants to set aside their preconceived notions of homelessness and poverty and enter with fresh eyes into the circumstances that bring about poverty and the loss of ‘home’ and familial connections. In connecting one-on-one with homeless and marginally housed women and men, myths are dispelled, respect flowers, and friendships are forged. Said one participant, “I came to experience ‘homelessness’ and I’m leaving with a sense of HOME!”
Watering the Seed of Care Through Touch
Fifteen years ago I received a present. It was a book titled “Care Through Touch: Massage as The Art of Anointing” by Mary Ann Finch. Right then and there, it planted the Care Through Touch seed in my heart. Fast forward to November 2014, I found myself participating in an Immersion Day at CTI as part of a Sabbatical program I was attending at the School of Applied Theology in Oakland, CA. That day, spent among the homeless community in San Francisco, brought the incubating seed to the surface. In the words of the Irish poet Seamus Heaney, “my heart was caught off guard and blown open.” As a result, I began the training program in January 2015.
I am learning that Care Through Touch is much more than "hands-on work,” it is "heart-work." It is a way of life, a way of "being" in the world. To be truly connected with the person who comes to me for massage I need to realize that what this person needs from me is my heartfelt presence. CTI challenges me to look beyond the outward appearance of the person who is present with me, to see beyond the sometimes delusional, angry, manic, depressed, addicted behavior, and let my heart work through my hands. There are moments when I come up against my own fears, insecurity and prejudices. But I have learned that these moments are an invitation to respond both to myself and to the other person with kindness and compassion. Compassion waters the CTI seed in my heart.
Finola Laide is from Ireland and a CTI intern.
Read about Mary Ann Finch in Rebecca Jone’s Article - Touch for Homeless Clients featured in the Massage & Bodywork Magazine (Sept/Oct 2008)
Read the story here.
The purpose of this BLOG is to introduce you, the reader, to some of the most resilient, loving, generous women and men, who, in spite of all odds, are making their lives 'works of art!’.
All have been TOUCHED by the hearts and hands of CTI’s Care Through Touch practitioners. “It’s the love you all put into the massage that makes it different from any other kind of massage I’ve ever received” said one faithful recipient. It’s not only what Care Through Touch has given these women and men, but even more, what they have given to CTI; and now through their stories to you the reader, and the world. As the saying goes, “I may be down, but I’m not out.” Here you will feel the truth of these words.
We begin this blog by introducing you to Jackie Zusman, a 67 year old woman we met through our Comfort, Care & Companioning Program. Today she is the ‘protector’ of this newly birthed program. In journeying with her over a few precious months, five to be exact, she showed us what a ‘warriors’ spirit is truly made of.
Jackie had bone marrow cancer that metastasized throughout her body. Every movement was etched in agonizing pain. But she craved the tenderness and intimacy of soothing touch.
“Mentally and physically it takes me to a place I never thought existed. It carries me out of this present state of pain to a state of euphoria, to a place where you feel as if your body separates itself – mental from physical, physical from mental. Truly, it's a place you would never ever think existed. But it does!”
“Simple touch makes all the difference in the world when you are terminally ill like I am. There is a line that is so scary and so anxiety producing that the fear is overwhelming. It’s not because of what you know, but it’s because of what you don't know about what to expect – how much more pain will be involved; how long do my doctors think I will live? From the very beginning of this last diagnosis though I told the oncologist that I didn’t want to know because I want to get up every day and enjoy it as if I didn’t know I had this disease! I try to make everyday as if it were my birthday, my Christmas, every day. Every day is like the start of a new year for me now! And now with Care Through Touch, it’s like every day you bring a new friend into my life, a life that before you came, was so lonely.”
Jackie was a magnet. Everyone who came into her presence was TOUCHED by her openness to life at that very moment, be it her satisfaction with a cigarette, a cup of coffee, the sound of her parrot, the footsteps of a friend coming down the corridor, the in-home-health women who chatted and loved her up, her long-time beloved friend, Oscar! To be honest, I believe we were all hoping we could push the inevitable march of her illness back behind the borders it was racing towards. But the time came when we were all powerless in the face of this monster disease, including Jackie herself. The pain was excruciating. No amount of morphine could silence it. “It’s time to go’ said the hospice nurse. And on the morning of February 28, she moved from the Empress Hotel in the Tenderloin to Coming Home Hospice a few miles away.
The following afternoon I went to visit Jackie, and she gave me the greatest gift of my life yet in Care Through Touch – she died peacefully with me by her side.
As I approached the door of her room, a nurse who was fixing her bed pillows, noticed a sudden change in her breathing. "I think she's making the transition,” she said to me as she left the room. That quickly! I was stunned! From that moment on, GRACE took over. I stood beside her bed and called her name, she opened her eyes wide reached for my hands and pulled me to her. I was both surprised and a bit scared by her strength. She attempted to say something, but it was impossible to understand. The nurse sedated her again, but her anxiousness continued a few moments longer.
At some point, I instinctively knew I needed to get out of the way of what was happening with her, and so I stepped back just a tiny bit to the side of her vision - enough for her to know I was there, but also enough to give her space. Instead of touching her, I held my hands just slightly off her body. And then this little miracle happened: I heard myself humming this sweet Bengali lullaby I learned in India and would sing to the dying people in Calcutta while I massaged or bathed or rocked them. (To tell you the truth, I think I've only sung it once since returning almost 15 years ago!) But there it was, just humming itself, so to speak. Jackie calmed down almost immediately. She opened her eyes and stared off into the distance; her eyes were clear and steady and I had the feeling she was meeting someone. (I'm so happy I remained out of the way). A few seconds later, she closed her eyes and her breathing slowed to a rhythm I've never witnessed before. I was fascinated by the slow coming and going of that breathing until there was no more...just the sound of my humming in a silence, finally without struggle! (The English translation of the Bengali lullaby is: "I love you, my dear baby”)
One of my mentors, Roshi Joan Halifax has written a book entitled Being With Dying: Cultivating Fearlessness in the Presence of Death. Her book is the foundation of a training program in Buddhist Chaplaincy. In it she speaks about the three requirements necessary in BEING with (note: not WORKING with) dying people: resting in not knowing, bearing witness, and loving action. As I reflect back over my experience that afternoon, I can see elements of all three. The most important lesson for me was: to get out of the way! "Let go, and let God!"
What a sacred journey this has been. We have dedicated our Comfort, Care and Companioning Program to Jackie!