It hadn’t necessarily been a surprise, but then I’ve never believed any amount of advance notice would allow one to adequately prepare for the death of someone they love. In this instance, there had been time—days that stretched into weeks that stretched into months, but still . . .
The hour of the service was approaching when I stepped into the stateroom to visit for a minute. I had known the children for . . . well . . . pretty much their entire lives, but their destinies had taken them in different directions and far away from home, so visits to Savannah, even without a pandemic, had been few and far between.
The older daughter was standing in the middle of the room, her back to me as she conversed with others who had come to pay their respects. Her husband stood close beside me but he never spoke, which was understandable. I recognized him. He didn’t know me from Adam—or Eve, as the case may be. Of course, being the aspiring hermit that I am, and a sworn introvert, I didn’t attempt conversation, either. Besides, he was focused on her, watching for the slightest hint that something might be amiss, that she might be faltering in her struggle to maintain some sense of control.
I don’t know what he saw. Perhaps it was nothing at all; perhaps it was a movement so slight as to escape the notice of anyone who wasn’t watching for it or didn’t know her well enough to catch it. Whatever he saw, it caused him to move toward her. Positioning himself to her left and slightly behind her, he softly placed his hand against her back and began to gently rub it, the tips of his fingers barely brushing against her clothes, just enough that she would know he was there. And as I stood, taking in this moment that very few others were privileged to see . . . or to appreciate . . . she visibly relaxed.
The human touch. It isn’t going to solve the problems of the world, but it can give us the strength to carry on by reminding us that we aren’t alone. And when that touch comes from the right person, it can impart a sense of peace that cannot be measured. Even in the worst of circumstances, it can provide a haven in the storms.
A healing touch, offered in love. Something so simple . . . and yet so powerful.
About the author: Lisa Shackelford Thomas is a fourth generation member of a family that’s been in funeral service since 1926. She has been employed at Shackelford Funeral Directors in Savannah, Tennessee for over 40 years and currently serves as the manager there. Any opinions expressed here are hers and hers alone, and may or may not reflect the opinions of other Shackelford family members or staff.