When I came home from tennis yesterday, I found a voice mail message from Jean, a local friend. Recently widowed, Jean wanted me to know she was “doing as well as could be expected” but “wasn’t herself yet”, and hoped I would visit her soon. She and her husband of 60 years were “joined at the hip” and spent considerable time together. They enjoyed their early morning coffee while reading the NY Times on the terrace, played golf and bridge, and walked the beach every evening. It was no surprise that Jean decided to care for her ailing husband at home, ignoring all suggestions to place her best friend in a nursing facility.
I returned her call. She noted she had a slight cold and was feeling depressed so I quickly offered to visit that weekend. What would I bring her? My first thought was to bring her some nice smelling soap as most women like that. On the other hand, Jean had quite a sweet tooth, so chocolates might be a better choice for her. But then again, I know when we last spoke she was watching her sugar intake. I thought of sugar-less candy but Jean has always been careful about what she eats so I did not want to bring something with artificial sweeteners.
Hmmm…a plant is always nice, an orchid perhaps. No, last time I was there she had many orchids. This decision wasn’t going to be easy. If I baked as well as you probably do, zucchini bread would be a good idea. But I don’t bake as well as anyone so that was my least favorite option. Most people would consider bringing a bottle of wine, but that is not my thing to bring, so I nixed the wine idea altogether. Not one of the ideas I entertained jumped out at me as the right one. Oh dear, this was presenting quite a problem.
And then I remembered reading some research about the power of hugging. Studies indicate that hugging actually improves the immune system, can cure depression, and reduce stress. Dr Harold Vot, a psychiatrist at Menninger Foundation in Kansas, describes hugging as an “excellent tonic”. Dr. Vot claims that hugging can “breathe new life into a tired body” and make someone feel younger and more vibrant. It sounds as though hugging could actually prolong life by curing depression and stimulating a stronger desire to live. I wanted Jean to live for a long time so a hug was just the right gift to bring.
And there you have it, problem solved! I would greet Jean with a hug and I would bring her a teddy bear so that she had something to hug after I left. I gave Jean a huge hug when she answered the door, and several other hugs during our visit. We had wonderful visit as we both laughed and cried over the events of the past few months.
A week later I stopped by to surprise Jean with still another hug. She didn’t have to tell me she was feeling more like herself because it was obvious. As we walked out on to the terrace I saw Jean’s cup of coffee, the NY Times, and the teddy bear sitting at the table. My guess is that she hugged the bear a few times since our last visit. Maybe that’s what accounted for the brighter look! I realized the hug was just about the best gift I could have given her, and the bear served as a reminder to her of the value of hugs.
Isn’t there someone out there who would benefit from a hug from you today?