blessingofthehands2016It was a simple email invitation to all Plymouth Harbor staff, which read: “For the last several years during National Nurses’ Week, Tidewell Hospice has provided us with a meaningful service — the Blessing of the Hands, led by one of their chaplains. The purpose is to help consecrate the work we do with our residents. If you would like to join us at 2:00 p.m. today in Smith Care’s living room, then you are welcome to do so.”

About 25 of us (staff and residents) assembled at 2:00 p.m. to simply be reminded how our hands represent us here in this extraordinary healing community! Carol Field, from Tidewell, began with the statement, “This is Holy Ground and God has given us sacred hands for our sacred and holy work.” I was attentive and deeply moved as Carol reminded us that the service was developed by the Desert Mothers in the early centuries when the Church saw its primary ministry as caring for the destitute and healing the sick. She then asked us to hold out our hands, palms up. With a bowl of water in her arms, Carol prayed:

Blessed be these hands that have touched life. Blessed be these hands that have felt pain. Blessed be these hands that have embraced compassion. Blessed be these hands that have been clenched with anger or withdrawn in fear. Blessed be these hands that have drawn blood or administered medicine. Blessed be these hands that have cleaned rooms and beds. Blessed be these hands that have touched the sick and offered blessings. Blessed be these hands that have grown stiff with age. Blessed be these hands that have comforted the dying and held the dead. Blessed be these hands which hold the future. Blessed be our hands; for they are the work of Your hands, O Holy One.

 Then she slowly walked the circle, touching our hands with water, saying, “May the work of your hands bring comfort, dignity, and mercy to all the people your hands touch.” Aides, nurses, housekeepers, dining, residents, and administrators — there we all were, many of us with tears in our eyes, at this simple gesture acknowledging the role we have in the wellness ministry. A drop of myrrh had been added to the water, and as we rubbed our hands together, we felt the oily fragrance frequently added to salve and medicines. Carol then sent us forth with the blessing:

 May you be blessed with a Spirit of tenderness and a tender heart. May you be blessed with a Spirit of strength flowing from you. May you be blessed with a Spirit of compassion. May you be blessed with a Spirit of courage, daring to be who you are. May you be blessed with a Spirit of openness, understanding and respect. May Life hold you and Love keep you. Amen.

I stood there wishing that all the Plymouth Harbor family could have been present — residents, staff, and board members — for in truth every person contributes to healing at 700 John Ringling Boulevard. Residents reach out to residents and staff; staff reach out to residents and colleagues; board members attending special events reach out to staff and residents, with such questions as “How is life at Plymouth Harbor going for you?” Plymouth Harbor is filled with healing!

Look at your hands. Take a moment right now to hold them out, palms up, and appreciate all the ways your hands help, hold, touch, and heal. Now imagine water touching them and hear the blessing, “May the work of your hands bring comfort, dignity, and mercy to all the people your hands touch. Amen.”