Saturday, February 1, 2014

Healing Hymnody

This is the entry I put up yesterday on my mom's CaringBridge site:

The picture I've put here is the view out the window of mom's room at the ICU. As Tom said in his entry, mom is the prettiest lady on a sedative. Only today, she hasn't really been on much sedation. She's resting, and was basically asleep for the first 90-minutes of my visit. As with all my trips home, I really don't have a desire to do much of anything but hang with my mom. So, for a long time today, I just sat with her, holding her hand, stroking her arm, and humming softly some of her favorite Episcopal hymns.

"Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty! Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee..."
"Alleluia! Sing to Jesus! His the scepter, his the throne..."
"Ye watchers and ye holy ones! Bright seraphs, cherubim, and thrones, raise the glad strain, Alleluia!"

Lots of alleluias. I had a talk with today's attending doctor, and the palliative care nurse, and the many other nurses. It's heartening to see these folks paying attention, being mindful, and treating mom with kindness while having to do some fairly unkind tasks. Ventilation is not fun, and when my mom is awake, it's very clear that she wants the tube out of her throat. And, at some point, that will have to happen. She's doing her part to breathe as much on her own as she can, and we seem to be very close to her being able to do that. Her heart rate looks good. Her blood oxygen levels are also looking good. What everyone has told me, she has more color in her cheeks today than she did even three days ago. So those are all the positive and upbeat signs.

Still, this latest event has taken a toll on her. That's very clear to me. When she was awake, her first thing was to cry when she saw me. I don't know what the tears were exactly, but I can only imagine that there is frustration, fear, and perhaps the tears that a child would shed when they are finally reunited with a parent they'd thought they'd lost at the mall. Parents, when they age and when they are in these more fragile states, really are dependent in the way we used to depend upon them. And mom hasn't seen me since the end of September. Her eyes closed. I held her hand.

"Eternal Father strong to save, whose arm hath bound the restless wave, who bidd'st the mighty oceans deep its own appointed limits keep: O hear us when we cry to thee for those in peril on the sea."

I stared out the window of her room. And I squeezed her hand. The one thing I kept telling her is that she's going to be OK. This is something I do believe is true. No matter what, my mom is going to be OK. 

I won't speak on behalf of my brothers, but I think we are all hoping mom will get a chance to start breathing for herself without ventilation soon. And from there, my hope is that she can breathe in comfort. For herself.

"Breathe on me breath of God. Fill me with life anew that I may love what thou dost love and do what thou wouldst do..."

As I sit here this morning, I realize that I didn't share what these hymns and humming these hymns were doing for me.  At times, it was hard to get through the melody line because I would start weeping.  This sometimes happens to me in church, by the way, and it makes it very hard to sing through watery eyes and a runny nose.  I would take a deep breath and start again, and found that the resonation in my chest, throat and mouth were aiding me as well.  And so a prayer for mom, a way to comfort her, became a way to strengthen and comfort me.  I've been praying for strength and courage.  Now I realize that there needs to be a more trinitarian approach: strength, courage, and comfort.  Here enters the healing power of hymnody.

In massage therapy, the person giving the massage also receives.  The theory is that we all are energetic beings, and the exchange of energy between therapist and client through touch is a powerful healing tool that is made more powerful when the therapist is open to the giving and receiving exchange that occurs with a universal force.  I call the universal force, "God," and my experience of that force is through Christ with the workings of the Holy Spirit.  The more open I can be, the more the energy I am distributing through my hands is a channel for God to assist in the healing.   Why would the same not be true for humming songs from my mouth?  And did I not recently talk about how God has put a new song in my mouth?

Just some insights for the first Saturday in February.

1 comment:

Phoebe McFarllin said...

Keep singing (humming when there are too many tears), keep messaging Peggy's hand and arm.. and remember always 'where two or three are gathered..."
And that means the entire body of Christ... and all those who know and love Peggy as well as those who know and love you.