jdonohie@gmail.com (510) 506-2400

John Donohie CMT

Wednesday afternoons with Mr. Slate

The past several visits with Mr. Slate had been good. He seemed content, easier, softer. I had the feeling that he had resigned, not given up in a negative way, but accepted things for the way they were. He wasn’t making demands, he seemed more pleasant, even asked me how I was doing.

I saw Mr. Slate on Wednesday, June 29th and he was fine. The session was smooth and not at all problematic. He was friendly  and thanked me with a big smile.  I received a call on Sunday from his care giver saying that he’d stopped eating on Thursday and had been vomiting that that there would most likely be no more massage. I received another message on Monday saying that he’d passed away.  What a difference in 5 days……..

This was a rich learning experience for me. The therapist who referred me to the job apologized for bringing me into such a difficult situation. I told him there was no need to apologize, that I like doing the work, that I’d learned a lot. I have no regrets about working with Mr. Slate. It taught me how to gently push my ego aside and be supremely present for another. When someone is dying, I think we should be there, just be there, words are not needed, human companionship is what’ important.

A day or so after his death, I found myself full of emotion which surprised me. His sudden absence hit me and I realized I knew nothing about him and that even in our silence, I’d made a connection and was now missing that. My colleague and I were invited to the memorial service and I’m glad I went. There were 50-60 people there, which also surprised me. I thought he had no one in his life. A few people spoke, and as the time unfolded, a more full view of his life took shape. He was a wealthy socialite, a philanthropist, a theater enthusiast, a fisherman, and supported all things Stanford. He touched lives with a  strange balance of softness and gruffness. All who spoke mentioned how much of a curmudgeon he was. He had weekly massages for the past 40 years. I was glad to be at the tail end of a long line of massage therapist who was allowed in to this mysterious man’s life. I left there with a sense of who this person was and a better sense of closure.

My finances took a big hit when Mr. Slate died, he paid very generously………for that, on a practical level, his death was a loss, not only on a human level. But for his sake, his passing was a gift. He wanted to go and was ready, thankfully he was able to do so quickly……….

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