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My friend, Jim

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I first met Jim almost two years ago. He was a referral from a friend. My friend misquoted my fee by half the price I generally charge, but I was happy to have a gig. I was just finishing up school and we were broke. At least I would be able to get take out pizza for the kids that night. I didn’t realize what an impact Jim would have on my life.

Jim is in his eighties. He has been suffering from Parkinson’s disease for over 30 years. When we first met, there were days he was able to walk with the help of a walker. Other days he would sit on the seat of the walker and his wife, Ann, would push him. It took quite a bit of effort to begin to understand what he was saying most of the time. Like many Parkinson’s patients in the later stages of the disease, his muscles were and still are very rigid and he lacks control of movement. Beyond all of this, his eyes are a beautiful sparkly blue, his smile is infectious and he is quite witty. Jim looks forward to my visits and I have grown fond of them as well.

My first scheduled appointment with Jim was for a Reiki treatment. He was unable to lay on his back on the massage table because he has trouble breathing while in a supine position. It took some time for him to position himself, with the help of Ann and I, on the massage table, but once he did, he would fall asleep in no time. He enjoyed the Reiki treatment but Ann thought that massage would be of greater benefit to him. Jim became my first regular massage client (still at the misquoted rate). Every Friday I would go to Jim’s house with my massage table and music. He would ask about the musical selection and marvel over the fact that I had so much variety on something smaller than a cell phone. I would spend an hour massaging the back of his head, his shoulders and back, and the back of his legs. Honestly, this was really difficult for me. For the first few months, I would take a deep breath, reach as far down into myself as I could and pull out all of the compassion I could find. This allowed me, on good days, to look beyond the physical structure in front of me and pour all the love I had into this man. I was able to look past the aged skin, the jerky movements, the body odor, and the excessive drooling. There were sessions that I needed to distract myself, though. I would read the spines of the books on a nearby shelf: Ideas and Opinions by Albert Einstein, A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra. For some reason I loved that these three books were in a row. I often have visions of big open spaces when I work on Jim. I am sure that he feels trapped inside his body and I wonder if he sees these open spaces too. I wonder if he uses these visions as a way to cope.

His wife, Ann, is a lovely woman. She is a retired school teacher, her children are grown, and she now devotes her life to taking care of Jim. She has been his advocate with doctors and hospitals for years now. She is exhausted. I give her a massage every once in a while. She likes to chat about my children and current events. We banter about politics. Ann called me a couple of months ago to say that Jim was in the hospital in a coma. The doctors suggested Hospice. She wouldn’t hear of it and somehow Jim came out of the coma. I saw him last Friday for the first time since then. He is in a nursing home. I no longer need to bring my table, he can’t get out of bed. There are no signs that he even knows who I am or what I am doing. I think it was nice for Ann to see someone touching him with love, respect and compassion. It was no longer hard for me. Having Jim as a client has allowed me to grow as a human being. As I was getting ready to leave last week, Ann asked, ” If Jim is still alive next Friday, will you come and give him a massage?” I gave her a hug and assured her that I would be there. We cried together for a few minutes.

I am pretty sure Jim will be making his transition soon. I know it will be much better for him at that time. I am truely grateful and honored to have worked for and become friends with Jim and Ann. They have unknowingly given me much more than I gave them.

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