Prayer and a Massage: Widowhood and Practical Ministry
This post in is honor of, Lavern, who has been a godly homeschool mom mentor and friend to me for the last thirteen years. I met her on a homeschool field trip to the Pawnee Bill Ranch in Pawnee, Oklahoma, when our girls were in kindergarten. At the time I lived in Oklahoma so, no, I did not field trip all the way to Oklahoma from St. Louis to check out Pawnee Bill’s Ranch which was once the showplace of the world renowned Wild West Show entertainer, Gordon W. “Pawnee Bill” Lillie.
Lavern is sweet, joyful, sweet, patient, sweet, kind; you get the idea. Her picture could be placed beside the word ‘sweet’ in Webster’s Dictionary or used on the label of honey jars. Sweet is what she is. She is the Proverbs 31 and Galatians 5:22 woman. I’m sure she has her less then self-controlled moments like the rest of us but I’m confident she doesn’t have them as often as me or as ‘passionately’ as me.
A year and a half ago Lavern’s husband, Tom, who was in great health almost, literally, choked to death eating a Popsicle while working in the yard during the extreme heat and drought Oklahoma was experiencing that summer. He choked—badly, gasping for air before making a recovery. The next day, Tuesday, he felt odd like his blood pressure was high and on Wednesday morning decided not to go to work. He had a fever and assumed he caught a virus their daughter had a few days earlier. Lavern had her reservations and was concerned that he had not been the same since the Popsicle incident. At one point Tom also said his head hurt. She suggested he visit a doctor.
Come Thursday morning Tom was weak and was having problems standing up. He made it to the bathroom but came back to bed feeling dizzy. He told Lavern it was bad and they decided to call 911. Lavern placed the call while watching Tom. He laid down on the bed face up, palms flat up, never asleep yet she saw his eyes roll back in his head. She called out his name, “Tom. Tom!” In hind sight, after reading medical articles, she wonders if he became paralyzed at that time because when the paramedics arrived, Tom could not move to help himself onto the stretcher. Still responsive, Lavern kissed Tom with an, “I love you” as the paramedics took him to the ambulance. She assured him she would be right there. She gathered his clothes for when he came home and drove straight to the hospital, Stillwater Medical Center.
Lavern arrived to find Tom unresponsive. When the staff opened his eyes she believed Tom was already gone. Tom was transferred to a larger hospital in Tulsa but remained unresponsive and after further testing it was determined Tom was gone due to a Cerebral Vascular event. After thirty eight years of marriage, Lavern, along with their five children decided to take their ever loving, faithful husband and father off life support.
Lavern told me the Lord graciously gave her a picture in her mind of Tom with the angels and Jesus. God had also gifted her with a wonderful weekend with Tom the previous weekend.
A few months before his death Tom told Lavern, “You know I’m not going to live long?” She thought, “You don’t know that,” and gave it no weight at the time but she has remembered it clearly since his death. Oh, the ways of God.
Lavern gave me permission to share this life event with my readers.
At the time I remember thinking how unfair it seemed that a woman so in love with her husband, a man who was a wonderful and loved father, an esteemed pillar in the community and a respected worker at his place of employment should be taken to heaven. I mean, after all, there are numerous, unloving, abusive and unfaithful husbands and fathers out there to choose from. Why Tom?
I’m being honest.
That was how I felt.
I gave my feelings to God and asked Him how I could best minister to Lavern’s needs. Do I go home for the memorial service or do I wait? How can I best love her and help meet necessary needs?
I believed God wanted me to go back after the celebration of Tom’s life, after everyone had returned home, after everyone had continued back to life as usual because they had to; when Lavern would be feeling the harsh reality every day that her normal was forever changed and Tom, although forever in her heart, was no longer in time with her and their five children but rather in eternity with our Savior. Would the freshness of Tom’s death feel frozen in time to her?
I wept for her and the loneliness she would be enduring. It could not have compared to the grieving she experienced, still suffers and will continue to weep over as the memories flood her heart and mind.
I had been talking on the phone with another friend of ours who had moved to Colorado, Kristen, and after praying about the timing we decided to visit Lavern together after the memorial service when it fit Lavern’s schedule. Our plan was to help with anything she physically needed done at the house, to help her write thank you notes if needed, to give listening ears and listening hearts and let her know we cared.
I began to wonder how widows emotionally survive the adjustment of having a tender caring touch from their man one day and the next—it is gone. Forever. We all need physical touch and when Lavern most likely needed it more than ever; she no longer had it.
I had an idea and I was certain the Lord brought it to my memory. In recent years I had a thoughtful friend give me gift certificates for massages at an upscale Christian owned spa where I chose the Fusion hot stone massage to relax, release tension and provide deep heat in the muscles. I wondered if Lavern would enjoy a massage so I talked to Kristen and asked her if she would like to help me give Lavern, and possibly her daughter, a massage. Kristen agreed and offered to bring her Young Living Essential Oils to add healing power to the massage.
After Kristen and I arrived and had visited with Lavern for a while I brought up the massage idea. I acknowledged her lack of physical touch since Tom was not there to hug, hold or touch her anymore. Add to that the tension brought on by the sudden loss, the financial stresses of sorting out banking and other accounts, parenting alone, taking care of the house—just so much all at once. I told Lavern we would like to give her a hot stone massage and pray over her if it was all right with her, and we would also give her daughter a massage if she would enjoy it. If her daughter did not want one; we would like her to watch us give the massage so she could occasionally give her mom a massage after we returned home. We knew paying for an expensive massage would not be in a widow’s budget but we could teach her daughter how to give her mom the gift of stress relief and relaxation.
In the Master bedroom we made a soft pallet on the floor (so we had easy access from each side; unlike a large bed), covered it with towels and provided a cover sheet for Lavern. We also had soft, relaxing music with sounds from nature playing in the background.
We had Lavern go in the bedroom and prepare for the massage by removing her shirt and jeans, situating herself on the pallet then covering her midsection with the sheet. Kristen and I then entered the room.
We had chosen several scriptures to pray over Lavern as she was massaged. It seemed to me Lavern had thoughts and feelings deep within her but words could not bring them to the surface. She shared her sorrow with us, but we being human; made from dirt, could not take if from her or ease it. But we could take her to Jesus in prayer. There we truly shared the significance of her need; her pain. I believe the Holy Spirit interpreted the depth of her sorrow to Jesus right there and then. Spiritually it was a beautiful experience to sense the Holy Spirit’s communication. Tears were shed and muscles relaxed as stress and tension released from her heart, mind and body. Jesus so tenderly loves us in such personal ways. Only He knew how much she needed the massage. Only He could have applied a healing balm to her deep hurts.
This brought joy to our hearts. He allowed us to be involved in His ministry to Lavern during her time of need.
In Luke 4:40 Jesus, who could simply speak healing, chose to impart healing through a personal touch. “At sunset, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them.” In Luke 5:12-16 Jesus touched a man with leprosy for the purpose of healing.
Here is what Lavern had to say when I asked her if I could share this experience on my blog for the purpose of teaching other women a meaningful way to minister to widows in their distress,
“Of course! I am an open soul. That was such a tremendous blessing to me—I was carrying so much painful sorrow that caused such tension in my body; tension I did not realize I had. Laying there I literally felt the tension drain out of me. I remember feeling so much of that lift, and I was able to truly relax. A wonderful peace covered over me. That was just amazing! I felt so loved and cared for by you and Kristen—but especially by the Lord for putting that on your hearts—and for your obedience! It wasn’t easy for you girls to leave your families and come here to minister to me. It was so very very amazing and truly helped me heal. I will be forever grateful and thankful!
Use anything you like….I so want to help others who experience such pain.
I love you to pieces!
Made your chocolate chip pumpkin bread this weekend….ohhhh my….soooo delicious!”
Now a funny note (I hope it is funny): Poor Kristen, I cannot imagine how she kept her composure as I poured drip after drip of her Young Living oils in my hands. Later, after I found out the price of those precious essential oils, I could just imagine her standing behind me with her eyeballs nearly popping out of her eye sockets at my lack of consideration. I’m so sorry, Kristen! I love you! Please forgive me!
Kristen sells Young Living Oils and it is a God-send that she does because months later she was in a near fatal accident resulting in a broken neck. She had her oils with her and she attributes some of her healing to her husband pouring the oils on her injuries. But mainly she gives praise and thanks to God for His protective and healing hand upon her. I saw the pictures of the wreckage and by all means, she should not be here, but that is another story.
I asked Lavern about other practical ways people ministered to her needs after Tom’s death. Here is what she shared:
It began at the hospital: We were living moment by moment. People picked up clothes for me, took care of details at the house, and sent gift cards for the cafeteria and gift shop. Having people around helped.
Meals: At the time she believed it was unnecessary for other people to provide meals. She quickly learned delivered cooked meals relieved her of so much stress because there was so much to think about at the time; finances, feeding her kids, and all kinds of unforeseen details.
Mortgage payments: She and Tom had lived in Texas years ago and had dear, sweet, precious friends they stayed in contact with and visited through the years. These friends told her they were going to pay her mortgage payments for one year. Lavern felt certain she could not allow them to do this until she sensed the Lord whisper, “Are you going to tell them, ‘No,’ to something I asked them to do?” This was a huge blessing because she had no idea all the medical bills she would have to pay—and how long it will take her to pay them.
An extended visit: Her sister stayed a full week after Tom’s memorial service to keep her company. She went through Tom’s financial files for Lavern and placed everything in order, showing Lavern where everything was located so she would be ready for tax time.
Yard work: Friends and church family stopped by the house to mow the grass and do yard work. Gifts of service.
Visits from friends: Her friend Judy, they go way back—longtime friends, came to visit; to talk. Just to be with her gave Lavern energy.
Lavern tells God how she misses Tom, even yesterday as she heard a song on the radio that was sung at his memorial service, yet feels like she was able to heal deeply because of the ways people ministered to her.
Lavern’s daughter came in to watch most of the massage so she could give her mom massages at a later time.
Below is a list of items needed and how to give the massage. You may check out a book at the library for further tips on giving massages. Stones may be purchased on the internet; or if you want to save money like I did, go to a local landscaping/nursery/rock emporium. I asked for the location of small river rocks and chose several round flat rocks then found tiny flat stones for between the toes. 15-20 stones for back, hands and feet. 10-12 tiny stones for toes. Massage oils may be purchased online or aromatherapy massage oils may be purchased at Bath and Body Works.
I brought multiple crock-pots with me for the massage. I placed the stones in a crock-pot set on low and poured hot water, which I had heated in a tea kettle, over the stones. In a second crock-pot, set on low, I placed six hand towels in very hot water. In a third crock-pot, set on low, I poured massage oil.
I used one bowl of cool water for cooling stones when they were too hot and had a dry towel for drying my hands.
Place stones on shoulders and down the middle of the back; or any arrangement that feels good to the person receiving the massage. Place a warm stone in their hands and wrap a warm wet towel around the hands. Place a stone on the bottom of the feet and place small stones between the toes then wrap a warm wet towel around each foot. While rubbing and massaging the body with massage oils replace the stones as they begin to cool. Return cooled stones to the crock-pot as you take out fresh hot stones.
Massage the front of the body: Feet, legs from the knees down, shoulders, arms, hands, neck, head, and face
Massage the back of the body: Feet, legs from the knees down, back, shoulders, arms, hands, neck, and head
I left the stones, an extra crock-pot and a CD of relaxing sounds from nature with Lavern.
Lastly, Lavern mentioned a book she found beneficial for a spouse mourning the death of their loved one, A Grace Disguised: How a Soul Grows Through Loss by Jerry Sittser. Lavern has now read it three times because it inspires her and gives her hope.
Kristin and I included scriptures when we prayed while massaging Lavern:
Psalm 34: 4,7,17
Isaiah 40: 11
Deuteronomy 33: 12
Psalm 37: 3
I Peter 1: 7
Isaiah 40: 28-29
Psalm 139: 7-10
Psalm 51: 10
Mark 9: 24
Isaiah 46: 9
Gal. 5: 25
Matthew 16: 19
Psalm 119: 92-93
Psalm 124: 1
I Cor. 2: 9
Psalm 27: 13
Matthew 6: 11
Psalm 90: 14
Hebrews 5: 7
Psalm 46: 10
Psalm 145: 18
2 Chron. 16: 9
Isaiah 32: 18
Proverbs 3: 33