For ordinary Japanese people, it is not a habitual act to hug or to be hugged by someone. When I visited France in my youth, I was shocked by their hugging and kissing so often.
Years later, I was in Calcutta[now Kolkata] to work as a volunteer in one branch of activities organized by Mother Teresa. My work was to seek dying people in the street of Calcuttaevery early morning, and take them to the place later called “House of Dying”.
Almost of them were past cure. They are dying. What we could do was to clean up their bodies sometimes covered with pus and leeches. After cleaning up, we put on them clean and comfortable clothes.
One day, I met an old man dying. Nuns were so busy because that morning we had many dying people. After praying for the man, nuns left him alone. I saw the furrows of grief in his face. The old man was in deep solitude. Unintentionally, I hugged him and I stayed with him until he passed away. Just before his last breath, he opened his eyes and smiled so beautifully. Since then it has become my way to bless “the departure” of dying person.
After India, I went to several places in the world where I could help the victims of war, natural hazard and social inequality. In each case I met many orphans who had very deep hurt not only of their body but also of their soul. They were dying in their mind. For almost of them, a psychological approach by doctors was not enough efficient. One night I kept hugging the whole night a little boy who had been screaming nonstop even one minute. The day after, he stopped crying. I continued to hug him as possible as I can. First, he was just a cold stone. A few days later, he became warm and soft. One day he laughed. It was first time that we heard his voice.
As a doctor of oriental traditional medicine, I often receive patients of serious illness or their family coming to ask my advice. My advice is always finished with the following phrase “First of all, please hug each other as often as possible.” Last year, a family of a patient who had cancer of the pancreas in terminal care came to ask me if they could cut a prescription of painkiller and give him ordinary life for his last moment. The patient was a doctor, a specialist of cancer. I went to see him and advised him, “Please hug with your family.” He told me “Doctor, I never hugged my son, my daughter…” According to the family, in his last ten days, he rarely had pain without painkiller and he enjoyed those days to hug each member of family as often as possible.
Nowadays, many of doctors can not even touch their patients. From many researches, healing touch gives us beneficial effects, such as increasing the power of resistance to disease, decreasing pain, being emotionally stable and so on. Each time when I give lecture for medical staffs, I tell them “Hug! Hug your patients. Hug your colleague. Hug your family. You will find not only your patients but also yourself healed.”
March 27 2009