An ordinary gesture with extraordinary results.
Something happened last night that made me see how extraordinary an ordinary gesture can be.
A migraine hit me hard; but this is not about the migraine.
It started with a hint of nausea, and then the world got too close and too far away at the same time, the way it does when I get these things. Noise turned into a weapon, every sound creating red zone spikes that hurt all over. My body became a walking sea of pain focused with a vengeance at the back of my head. And I only wanted the blackest dark there was. And silence.
I did what I do for relief. I hit the Excedrin for Migraine and within twenty minutes or so, poof! The thing was gone. Like magic.
But this is not about the migraine.
This is about those twenty minutes in the middle of the night when I reached for my wife’s hand, and she was there.
She is always there.
As soon as our palms met, something in my heart relaxed. My heart, my jaw, my shoulders, everything. Her presence and her steady love seemed to literally bleed off some of the pain. I felt so grateful. She didn’t have to say anything. She didn’t even have to be fully awake. Just awake enough to hold my hand — and immediately, there was shelter from the squall.
We’re in our sixties and have been walking side by side for the better part of two decades. We’ve picked our battles, brokered a thousand agreements. We’ve learned each other, and learned how little we know of each other. We’ve disappointed each other. We’ve surprised each other.
It is no doubt like any long-term, decent relationship. There is a rhythm of relating that’s not unlike the tides. Difficulty draws the waters out. Tenderness and curiosity bring them back in.
There are times when she skates real close to her limit with her 94-year-old, dementia-ridden mother. She comes home and vents to me, and my mind fills up with what I ‘know,’ with advice, platitudes, fixes, ideas. Because I’m 65, I know now how useless all that noise is, so I just sit with her and listen. This is her reaching out. This is me taking her hand in mine.
Love is about having the strength to witness each other’s suffering without doing anything, without getting all tangled up in it. This is one of the most crucial lessons to learn in any relationship — but especially in a marriage.
The silent, conscious sharing of a hard moment cuts the hardship in half.
Remember this. Remember it, because it might be you someone’s reaching for. It might be you, groggy and only half aware, who feels that hand looking for yours. Don’t underestimate the power of just holding that hand.
Maybe there’s nothing you can do about their pain, nothing you can fix about their situation. But the touch of your hand and the silent witness of your heart might make all the difference.
It’s an ordinary gesture with extraordinary results.
And for your beloved, it might just be the one thing that makes the unbearable bearable.