Tuesday, August 8, 2017
“Touch with your heart more than with your hands.” ― Karen Quan
There is an old ballad that I loved to hear when I was young, my parents liked it when they were young, and I still hear it sung today by Michael Bublé. It’s called “Little Things Mean A Lot,” and it is as true today as it was when it was written. There is one line, “You touch my hair, as you pass my chair” that has always resonated with me. I love to be constantly reminded that my wife loves me. After fifty-two years of marriage, if she gets up and walks past the back of my chair without touching me, I sigh a little, but if she touches or kisses me on the top of my head as she passes, my heart leaps within my chest as if we were teenagers in the throes of puppy love. Strange, isn’t it, that at over seventy years of age and after fifty-two years of marriage, one fleeting touch can mean so much to me—and to her. Science tells us that infants deprived of human touch will die, just from lack of being touched. I understand that. We all need constant reassurance that we are worthwhile, loved, cared about, important in someone else’s eyes and heart. Almost always, whenever Jesus healed, He did it with a touch. He touched lepers when everyone else shunned them. He laid hands on the possessed, on withered limbs, and on sightless eyes. He touched children. I find it almost impossible not to touch the four- and five-year-old orphans that we feed every day here. If I am near them, I am touching or holding them (if they will let me, some are a little wary of an old, fat, white man—and who can blame them?) and listening to their laughter and their English of which they are so proud. We all need to be touched from birth to our death beds.
When I was the pastor of Grace UMC in Rogers, Arkansas, I was once sitting in a hospital room late at night with a parishioner in his late thirties who was dying of cancer. He could no longer speak, so we would communicate in writing as we both had legal pads and pens. It was almost midnight, and I was getting up to leave. He motioned me to stay and struggled writing what would be his last words. He wrote, “It is close. Will you hold me while I go?” I moved to his bed and hugged him as best I could around the maze of wires and tubes attached to him. He looked up, smiled at me, and with a single tear running down his cheek, his body shuddered and he left our world. I cried, but my tears were joy for him mixed with sadness for me and his family. It was perhaps one of the most poignant moments of my life shared with one who could not speak but told me of the joys that await without uttering a word. When he knew the end was near, what he wanted was human touch, a physical reminder that he was not alone.
On a February night in 1996, I had been declared dead but brought back by an off-duty nurse. Later, I was left alone while the whole ER crew left to deal with a heart attack victim. I was alone, cold, and very, very frightened. Then a woman came in and touched my arm. She was from the lab and knew me. I can’t remember her name or her face, but I will never forget that touch. It brought me back. Touch is something we all need, and something that each of you can give—not only to those you love but to bring the warmth and light of Christ to others—with just a touch. It means so much and costs so little. It is the stuff of God, Christ, and the love and peace that passes all understanding. It is something you have felt, so you know what it means. “He touched me” says it all.