Those of us lucky enough to have all five senses in good working order often wonder if there was one we could absolutely, not a chance in this world, live without. I always thought sight or sound were my deal breakers. But nowadays, I choose touch, because reaching for my mum’s hand was how I would cope, or communicate, or occupy my mind towards the end… and because reaching for my daughter’s hand, or the amazing feeling of her reaching for mine, is what floats my boat these days!
It’s a dark day when you are told there’s nothing left that can be done. Your dreams plummet and you feel a primeval need to release your grief, but you also have an innate sense of wanting to appear calm. Absolutely everything about that moment is out of your control except for the way you react, that’s the one thing you can exert authority over. In that moment, I reached out and held my mum’s hand. Whether more to give her comfort, or to give me strength, I’m not sure, but I hope it did both. Whatever the reason, my instinct was to hold her hand, not look at her, and listen passively to the doctor telling her we had ‘weeks and not months’. The moment our hands touched, it felt like home. As the doctor continued to talk and mum continued to ask questions, my mind wandered, while my hand stayed still. It let me stay with her through finding out how her body would shut itself down, what support she would need at home and what things we needed to start arranging, without ever really hearing the heartbreaking words.
She’d reach for my hand under the covers as I slept with her at night – it was like the roles had reversed, she was the child seeking comfort and I was the mother letting her know everything would be OK and that I would never let go, I would protect her. These were the most precious moments, laying in silence, listening to her breathe so softly, cradling her hand in mine.
Holding her hand once she had lost consciousness allowed me to communicate with her when words no longer were able. I would will my love and my care to make their way from my touch into her soul, where I hoped she could still hear and feel me. I would put her hand on my belly so she could feel the first flutters of her granddaughter. The granddaughter she so desperately wanted to meet, the granddaughter who is turning out to be a lot like her. Holding her hand as she slipped away from us allowed me to grieve. It gave me a silent moment with her, wishing her well as she moved onto the other side, where I hope she can still see me and kiss my forehead with the love and devotion only a mum can give.
I have the absolute, unbridled joy of sharing beautiful moments of touch with my daughter now. Running my fingernails gently through her hair, stroking her beautifully soft, red rosy cheeks with the back of my hand, tenderly supporting her head in my palm as she falls asleep, trusting I’ll be there for her in the morning.
One of the most magical moments of being a new parent is the first time your baby understands the power of touch, and she wraps her entire hand around your finger. I remember just staring, daring not to move in case she shifted and let go. Don’t ever let go baby girl, keep holding onto me and know I will always be there with a hand for you to hold.
She’s motoring around on her own two feet now (albeit wobbly, but very determined!) but while she was learning to take those first giant steps, she would keep a firm grip on my hand. I would let her lead the dance, and eventually pulled back my support from hand, to fingers, to solitary finger, smiling at her and encouraging her to take steps on her own. Her eyes would grasp mine, slight panic clouding her baby blues as she wondered whether or not I’d be there for her. She would soon realise I wasn’t going anywhere and she’d bravely take another tentative step forward; something that would feel so huge in her little world.
I just love holding her little hand in mine. Now she squeezes my hand when I cradle hers, such a simple gesture that just means the world to me, and as she grows into the wonderful young lady I envision she’ll become, I hope she never grows tired of holding my ageing palm in hers.
There is no more tender moment than that at which a mother and daughter’s hands meet. Choose touch.