The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer.
When I read the May 3 front-page article “Pandemic robs Tucson kids in hospital of healing touch,” I was moved to tears. I know firsthand the importance of touch related to children because my first residency as a chaplain was at Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix and Phoenix Children’s Hospital.
Presence and touch are powerful healing agents.
There’s another group of people who are also among the most vulnerable and who are missing touch and companionship — the dying.
I have tended to people with 6 months or less to live for almost 40 years now, and I can tell you the ache for human touch and the utter loneliness of being isolated and alone is heartbreaking for them.
The “No Visitors” rule in many facilities creates an almost unbearable isolation for the dying. My patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s simply do not understand why their visits from a son or daughter, or me, have stopped.
They may not be able to explain it in words, like you and I could, but you can see the pain in their eyes and see the toll social-distancing is taking in their bodies.
There’s nothing like human touch, bedside presence and face-to-face companionship. And it’s even more excruciatingly painful for those who end up dying alone. I pray for them and look forward to that day when I can visit without a mask, hold a hand and be physically present to comfort folks with kindness, love and attention.
Never has there been a greater need for kindness, compassion, empathy and love that is demonstrated. Words alone won’t cut it. Some sort of action is required: Write a hand-written letter to someone, buy a coffee for the car behind you in the drive-thru, leave flowers for someone at their doorstep.
It’s not only “big” or “grand” ideas or actions that matter. The very tiniest kindness, the very littlest act of mercy, a moment or two on the telephone — the smallest loving things — they all matter. They offer a beacon of light and some hope to help another person make it through the day (and the night). It turns out in the end, the little things are the big things. Make your life count! Do some good. Be kind.
Lastly, don’t ever forget not to take things or people for granted.
This is connected to gratitude — to being grateful for small and large things — the blessings of your life. Most of all, being grateful for the people in your life — your mother, your father, your wife, your husband, your son, your daughter, your friends — all of them.
Be grateful for everything you have. A roof over your head, the food that you eat, air-conditioning on our ever-increasing hot days and your health.
Rather than cursing the universe for taking away your option to leave your home, be grateful that you have a home. Many don’t.
Others wish they could be home with their families, but can’t. They work in “essential” industries.
Some don’t have families and struggle with loneliness day and night. Appreciate the smaller moments, the things that make life wonderful.
Be well. Be safe. This too shall pass.
Chaplain Patrick Sheridan Cunningham is a grief and loss authority who has comforted people with 6 months or less to live for almost 40 years. He has been on the front lines of the issues and dynamics of death and dying in order to make a difference for others through kindness.
Concerned about COVID-19?
Sign up now to get the most recent coronavirus headlines and other important local and national news sent to your email inbox daily.