I have been a massage therapist for 20 years and have had the privilege of working on so many great clients. Among them all, though, the elderly are my favorite group to work on.
One of the reasons that I enjoy working on seniors is that massage is often their only source of physical contact. Since many of them have lost their spouses, a massage can provide not only an easing of a discomfort, but can also be a much needed source of touch.
Some of my older clientele have had their share of ailments, most of which prove not to be serious. Unfortunately, I have had the misfortune of losing some of my clients. Two of them recently passed away within weeks of each other.
I have become close to some of my clients, especially the ones I have been working on for years. When my husband, also a massage therapist, became ill and was unable to work, so many of our clients gave us monetary gifts, knowing that we were under a lot of financial stress at the time. The point I'm trying to make has nothing to do with the material benefits to having a nice clientele; it's the generosity of spirit and appreciation we have been shown so often over the years. It's the friendships we have developed with so many of them.
So when two of my regular clients died recently, I was overcome with a feeling of deep loss and disbelief that these people, who had become a part of my life, were gone. Mixed in with the sorrow of losing a friend was the fact that I had lost some of my income.
I admit to some guilt that I felt bad about my lost earnings when someone who had come to mean so much to me had died. After some reflection though, I realized that in today's economy, the loss of two regular clients is something to be concerned about. I also came to terms with the fact that their passing had not only emptied my pocket book, but also my heart.
If I work hard, I can regain my income by finding more work, but I will never again quite replace those particular special people in my life.
Another thing that I have struggled with since my friends' passing, is that I no longer have the ability to make them feel better. As massage therapists, we are a kind of caretaker. Our clients come to count on our ability to send them home in better shape then when they came see to see us. When they are gone, so is our ability to improve their health, to ease their sore muscles, or even to listen as they tell us what is behind the tension in their lives. What gives me some solace is the fact that they are now in more capable healing hands than mine.
I grieve not being able to make things better any more; I will no longer get to see them walking a little taller and a little looser after a massage. I will miss the look of anticipation and happiness when they see me walk through the door with my massage table. I hate that I will never again hear that big sigh of relief after the first effleurage stroke.
Most of all I'll miss their friendship.
Though I will mourn our special alliance, they will always remain in my thoughts, and I can take comfort in knowing that I had a part in improving their life a little. I eased tense shoulders, worked out knots, stretched out constricting fascia, got them to take slow deep breaths, and cradled their head in my hands as I gently stretched their necks.
Even though there is no replacing of the special people that I have lost, it makes me appreciate the friendship and patronage of my remaining clientele. They are now the ones I focus on and continue to be concerned about. They, too, are special to me, and maybe even more so now, because I know how fleeting their company may be.
I will leave you with something my client who just passed away said to me once, right after his first massage. He had been silent during the entire session, and I was hoping that he felt some relief. Apparently he did, because when the massage was done, he let out a big sigh of contentment and said, "I think this is a start of a beautiful friendship."
And that it was.