Monday, July 8, 2013

Reading Aloud.

I've always liked to read aloud, although I don't get much chance to do it.  When I was in school, I always hoped I would be the one to get chosen to read a paragraph or part out loud.  I try to limit how often I read aloud an interesting or funny book passage to my husband as I know how annoying it can be, but I still do it.  When I was making hospice visits, I found that one good way of entertaining or soothing my patients was to read to them - either from a book or Bible they had, or work of poetry or devotions I brought with me.  All of this, and yet I don't know why it took me so long to realize that I could read to my dad as a way of connecting with him.

I went to see him last week in the afternoon and, surprisingly, he was awake and looking at me as I walked into his room.  He did not seem happy; in fact, he looked pretty tense and down right pissed off.  Over my last few visits, I have noticed a certain crankiness during the moments he was awake, so I figured maybe we had entered a stage of him being upset and aggravated at every thing, but I thought I'd at least try to cheer him up a little.  I sat directly on the arm of his recliner so that I was close to him and I started to stroke his arms and rub his hands, which I've been trying to do each time I visit.

Every time his eyes moved around to mine, I smiled and said hi, while continuing to gently rub his hands - and it worked!  He definitely started looking a little less cranky and a little more comfortable; I even caught a little bit of a smile, so it seemed like the touching was really helping.  And why wouldn't it?  I'm pretty sure most of the physical contact he gets is when someone is bathing, dressing, or moving him, which probably gets tiresome.  I moved over to the bed for a moment and caught sight of the small Bible on his table and thought to myself that maybe reading to him from it would be soothing.  As a healthy man, he read the Bible daily, so I thought that on some level he might recognize at least the spirit of what he was hearing.

It's been a while since my Sunday School days, and I no longer remember what stories and verses are where, but you can't go wrong with Psalms, especially the 23rd, so that's what I read.  I perched as closely to him as I could and read to him for about a half hour, looking for the most peaceful and lovely verses I could find.  As I read, I noticed him watching my face closely - almost as if he could understand what I was saying - and eventually, his eyes closed and he drifted off to sleep.  I was glad to see how much more relaxed his face and body looked than when I had arrived. 

I hope the words soothed him somewhat, or if not the words, then my voice.  It felt like a blessing to be able to do it, and watch him gradually relax. Next time I think I'm going to bring some poetry as well, in hopes that it will have the same soothing quality.  It always amazes me how the simplest, most inexpensive and easy acts - something like reading aloud to a loved one - can have the most profound effects.

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