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March 27, 2020

Dear Beloved Massage Clients…

Dear Beloved Massage Clients,                                      

I lost one of you. For 20 years I’ve been massaging people. They’ve moved in and out of my practice for various reasons, but none of my regular beloveds has died.

I got this news yesterday, a week after the fact, and you left us exactly a week after I last touched you. Neither of us understood that you were sick. I don’t even know how you died. You were only 67. Your darling wife is grief stricken and scared in this moment. She can’t talk about it yet. The entire world is in quarantine, so nobody can even comfort her, and my heart is broken. I think of her alone in that house where you both spent your work days. You told me of her recent choice to retire, and now this…It took her a week to find me because your phone was locked! At this age I should be regularly reading obituaries. I think about you leaving during this worldwide virus, and it makes me laugh. I hate that you’re missing out on the full pleasure and encouragement for you to stay home to listen to music, study chess, cook healthy food, work on the computer and forage out only to ride your bike. How could you check out now?!

In that last session together we talked about death. I told you about another client’s wishes for me to be there at his deathbed, “massaging him to death.” We laughed. We agreed that sounded right. I guess I nearly got to do that for you. You died peacefully in your sleep, not even disturbing your wife. You deserve at least that. We talked about my papa and his slow decline and the misery of wanting to leave and living a life devoid of quality. We agreed that wasn’t cool. I’m so glad you at least didn’t have that.

I think you know that our time together was sacred. It was never a bore, never an obligation, and always so many lessons for both of us. My work with you defines much of my massage success and knowledge. We have been doing this for like ten years. You would begin every massage session lying face up and we would spend that first hour talking, but mostly making each other laugh because you thought I would be the perfect S&M mistress with my joy at making you squirm in pain, knowing that I had found the spot that needed me – knowing we were now making a difference, bringing us both to the issue you wanted resolved. Breathing. I taught you how to breathe through discomfort, rather than pant, or tense up and hold your breath. It improved your climbs on the bike and allowed you to keep ahead of your brother-in-law; your favorite riding partner. Goddamn it. Why aren’t you breathing now?

I am so grateful for our time together, and your place in my life. I went down to the river and cried over you while I angrily slammed the shovel into the dirt. Then I sang you a song until my teenager snuck up, not knowing what was going on and laughed at me. Fucker. You know these teenagers are fuckers. Thank you for hearing my parenting stories and sharing your own. Anyway, I thought the song was a good way to honor you because you were a musician and I never had the pleasure of hearing you play or sing. It was a thing you mostly did in the 70s and we often laughed about your status in the band always being a hot chick magnet and maybe that’s how you landed your lovely wife.

You haven’t been riding your bike much lately. For some strange reason it has been kicking your ass. It has been frustrating for you. I love that you weren’t even distraught over it, but instead just focused on playing chess. I recently forwarded you an article about how much cheating happens in chess and laughed, hoping you would learn some good cheating techniques, knowing all along that you were not the cheating type.

I know that it is natural for us to live and die, like flowers and trees, but still I cry. I convince myself that t’s ok to cry. I will miss you. There were weeks I would forget about making your next appointment and you would text to remind me, but I promise it was never YOU that I was forgetting. I loved our time together. I knew that the hug at the beginning of the session was important for both of us. I knew that you liked having your hands massaged, and that it reminded you of meeting your wife. I would do that after a particularly intense session when your body was wrecked. I would begin with head rubs, because that would relax and prepare you for the hard work to follow. I know the curve of your spine and how even though blood would fill your hands until they were blue when they hung down to the floor, it was your most comfortable position. I would move them back onto the table in an effort to open the front of your body. For years, often two hours at a time, I would attempt to straighten that spine, loosening your pecs because your natural state of being as a tall man who worked at a computer and rode bikes was to be hunched forward. I begged you to take pushup breaks during your work days and teased you for having weak arms yet thighs that could push dump trucks. Sometimes you would come in, sore from doing pushups, but proud of yourself for having remembered. I almost had you convinced to join my yoga class: Yoga for Stiffies. 

Thank you for letting me part of the happiness in your life. Thank you for letting me help you. Thank you for the intimate stories – both sharing them and hearing them. I hope that this place where your soul soars doesn’t need my touch, yet somehow defines it for its next endeavors that I know will be amazing.



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