By Michelle Wilson, Development Director for The Children’s Advocacy Center of Jackson County

mother-child+handsIn honor of what would be my mom’s birthday this month, I am sharing a post I wrote three years ago on healing and the mother’s touch.   This could have been written now, with the references to the stories shared at this center and the healing that occurs here.  We now offer art workshops through our Building Bridges project and our therapists continue to offer a variety of types of creative therapies for hundreds of kids and teens each year.

I am looking at a picture of my mom a few years ago on a trip to visit my sister in Colorado.  Beautiful flowers surround her and she has a relaxed smile on her face.

I am smiling back at her this morning.

My mother and the whole state of motherhood have been on my mind a lot this week.  I read a story the other day about a premature newborn who was pronounced dead, then was put on his mother’s chest and started breathing.  He is now 2 years old and thriving.

A mother’s touch is pretty powerful stuff.

My mom passed away a few months ago.  I was blessed to be able to spend the last several weeks of her life with her, along with other siblings.  During that time we talked a lot, when she wasn’t too tired, about the years we had all spent together and the years when life had us in different places around the country.  I have lived far away since I graduated from college and always hoped I wouldn’t regret living so far from my mom once she passed away.

I have found, though, that I feel as if she and I were just as close as she was to my siblings living near her.  We talked on the phone a few times a week and saw each other at least once a year.  Our relationship was quiet, subtle, almost invisible because it was largely through phone contact.  But it was powerful, like the touch of that mama whose love helped her newborn breathe for the first time.

It’s kind of like art, I realize, and the process of creating it.  The product may be powerful, with its own energy surrounding it, even if the process of creating it was invisible to the viewer.

I think of Mom all the time now, dream about her.  Her touch is still with me, subtle and powerful, reminding me to breathe every day and take in all that is around me.  She invites me every day to choose life above everything and to enjoy every minute, every gift.  At night when I put my son to sleep, we say goodnight to her and to the angels.  I hug him very closely, wanting my touch to stay with him even when I’m not with him.

This week was a difficult one at the Children’s Advocacy Center.  We heard too many stories of kids who have been hurt, most by family or extended family members.  We talk to each other about how it affects us, all of these stories.  And we talk about what we do to handle the stress and sadness of our work.

The thing that works, it seems, is staying connected – to life, to what we love, to the gentle touches of the people around us.  I think of Mom to help me through.  I decide every morning to choose life and gratitude, no matter what is happening.  Her touch sustains me still.

So many of the kids and teens who come to us don’t have this kind of memory of gentle, loving touch.  Most have memories of touch that harmed them.  In the mentoring program and in therapy and in all of our interactions with them we try to give them something of what they missed.  Something of the mother’s touch.

child+paintingThrough the art program we offer them a way to choose life in the face of sadness and despair.  They create works that reflect their lives and their hopes.  Through the touch of the brush to the canvas, they can experience something they may never have had.  Through the kind words and support of their mentors and those who see their works, we hope they can begin to have memories that will sustain them, much like the memory of my mother’s voice sustains me.

I choose to believe that we can do this, help them create an internal voice and memory that will help them remember to breathe when life gets difficult.

I believe the mother’s touch is always there, something we can pass on to each other when needed, an invisible life force with a tangible energy all its own.

We can do it through kind words, art, anything that helps to create the energy that can sustain us, no matter what we face.