Touch Has a Memory


Some phrases grab me, hold me and stir me. I let them rummage around my soul forming images. Sometimes those images are formed into words. “Touch has a memory,” by poet John Keats is such a phrase. Three memories flash across my mind. The first is a memory of skiing with my daughters in Vermont when they were 6 and 8. The second is comforting my grandson when he was ill at 14 months. The third is  serving my mother communion for the first and only time.

As you read these three short passages, think about the many ways your hands touch others, perhaps on a daily basis as a caregiver. Why should we perform this service for another day? Over time, does anything we do really matter?



One answer: Touch has a memory.

1. Cold

Picture of the Communion Service at Prism the alternative Baptist Assembly strand 2008 Blackpool

From Saturday ’til Thursday

the thermometer never peaked

above zero.

Novice skiers were we,

undaunted by the cold,

squealing and chilling

as we rode the blanket-clad lifts.

Two runs down powdery perfect snow;

into the lodge with chattering teeth.

Off with gloves and boots.

Tears form as their chilled,

skinny bodies shake.

I rub and rub

their feet and hands,

even put their tiny feet

in my mouth

blowing back warm smiles.

A little hot chocolate,

then, “Dad, it’s so much fun.

Let’s go again.”

2. Wet

Temperature rising,

spitting up, cranky,

no longer his sweet talcum smell.

He can't help himself.

I can't comfort him.

I shed our clothes

and step into the shower.

Vomit down my back;

urine down my front.

The shower washes it away.

Then, it’s over.

He snuggles into my neck.

We rock in the gentle warmth

of healing water,

baptized in love.

3. Broken

I press communion bread

gently but firmly into her palm.

Hands so gnarled and twisted

by rheumatoid arthritis

they could not fully

close nor open.

“His body broken for you,”

I murmur.

She lifts her face.


Our eyes hold each other:

Mother and son.

Photo by Ian Britton, released for public use via Flickr and Creative Commons.