A few times in these recent months, people who know Mani well have made comments about how she “has changed so much” and how “illness changes a person.” I’ve wondered what they meant exactly. How does she seem different to them? I wish they’d elaborate on these vague statements, but haven’t asked.
On Monday, as she was standing by the door on the porch about to go back upstairs, I looked at her and saw a softening. So many years a healer herself--she has delivered close to 200 babies, helped bring them “earthside” in the parlance of midwives. A Reiki master whose hands have helped bring healing to many, including me.
Janna, an acupuncturist, had come over earlier that morning. She didn’t even end up using any needles. Mostly, she worked with her hands. At one point, she told Mani, in the kindest, most sincere way, ” I am stronger than you right now, so let me do the work. Just take.”
To “just take” is a radical piece of instruction for one who naturally just gives. To take, to need. And so it was, when I looked at her standing there later, that I, too, saw something new. Not her physical frailty; more of an inside-out transformation. A woman learning–and not by choice but through illness and surrender–to receive, to be the one on the healing end of the healer spectrum. Earlier, Janna had seen it in her eyes, too–an outside perspective affirming what we believe to be true: She will be well again.
All of this is to say: Her hands, though weaker now, haven’t changed. Still the hands that she placed on my shoulders on January 14, 2012, my 38th birthday and the first night of us, and asked: “Do you ever relax?” These hands that now struggle to open a bottle of spring water, they will grow strong again. They will write her novel again and plant a garden again and heal others again. These hands, though lacking physical strength, still do heal. Still cause my whole being to soften when she touches my upper back, sacrum, head, heart center.
Yesterday, she knew just where to place them as I curled into her, reserves thinned out and tenuous. And that was all it took to unlock the tears of my own need for healing, for taking. Still, she gives and gives.
The more she takes, the more I yield to reality. The more she needs, the more she softens and accepts. Until together, it’s true–we are both changing, the sheer oceanic force of life as it happens eroding our sharp edges, making us both into someone, something, new.