cat 1

cat 2




Dear Mom,

My visit with you this month was a hard one, wasn’t it?  The previous week you’d taken a fall, and your left wrist was still swollen. A dark bruise remained on your arm, and just raising your hand gave you a stab of pain all the way to your shoulder. If you rolled over during the night, the pain woke you up.  You didn’t remember falling, and everything was confusing.

The doctor had taken x-rays and assured your nurse and caregivers that nothing was broken. This wound required patience, mild pain relievers–and time–to heal.  Based on that plan, I propped your wounded hand across a small pillow placed on your chest and tucked a blanket around you to hold  everything in place. I settled in the chair next to your recliner and began to read a book.  It was brutally cold outside that afternoon, but your apartment was toasty warm and quiet.

I heard a soft humming.

Your eyes were closed, and your good hand began patting your wounded hand beneath the cover. You no longer grimaced in pain, and after awhile you fell asleep.

Research has been done about cats purring even during stressful or painful situations, when they are hurt or frightened or unhappy. The vibrations of their purrs have a healing effect on their bodies (based on information from THE FELINE PURR: A Bio Mechanical Healing Mechanism).

If you think about it, it’s a fair assumption that cats and humans might have similar healing strategies. When we’re in pain or sad, if we need to rest and heal, for many of us the strategy is to hum along with soft music, or hum tunes we remember as comforting. We also rock and soothe fussy or ill children, sharing the sound of our heartbeats, comforting them with human “purring” rhythms.

You did not hum and soothe an ill child that day, Mom; you soothed your own wounds. As I watched you and listened, I remembered the tender way you held your grandbabies and the babies in the church nursery or anywhere a teething or fretful young child needed a dose of gentle humming attention. You and Grandma (your mother) were the “baby whisperers” whose open arms and soft comforts and humming worked wonders.

As you heal the wounds from your fall, Mom, I remembered many times you offered your healing touch to others. In so many ways, you have always been a healer, Mom.  Thank you.

Love, Marylin                                                                                 Grace letter

Gannon letter

Grace and Gannon writing Get Well notes to their great-grandmother (all pictures by Marylin Warner)

Grace and Gannon writing Get Well notes to their great-grandmother (all pictures by Marylin Warner)



Filed under art projects, cat and human "purring", Dementia/Alzheimer's, memories for great-grandchildren

85 responses to “HELPING THE HEALING

  1. Kathleen Durbin

    So achingly sweet!

    • Thanks, Kathleen. Even though Mom can’t meet with the writing group–and doesn’t do any more writing or drawing–I wish you all continued inspirations and much success with your writing.

  2. Beautiful, and true. Purrs and music… My friend who is an EMT and Emergency Room Charge Nurse, said that when they come upon someone who is unconscious the first thing she does it tell them she is there to help, and then she says, ‘Now I want you to take a deep breath.” She sees them do that. Their subconscious awareness of sound still functions. Often hearing something, whether we are conscious or not, holds the power of suggestion and is a path to recovery. I think the type of music or other things we hear and surround ourselves with in our waking state has a great power too. Your message here is such a beautiful reflection. Thank you for posting so we could share. Love the pic of Gracie and Gannon making get well things for their Mor-Mor-Mor!

    • What a wonderful reminder that the power of suggestion is part of the path to recovery, K. Watching Mom in her recliner, listening to her hum, reminded me that at our core, we have much in common with animals, even purring cats. Grace and Gannon were so cute, very serious about creating pages to encourage their great-grandmother. She may not realize the pictures are from her great-grandchildren, but she’ll know someone is thinking of her and caring enough to make her Get Well cards, and that will be enough.

  3. beautiful. I hadn’t thought about it before, but yes – we do hum to soothe our babies and little ones, and cats do purr when they are scared. How lovely to see that your mother still has that instinct. Bless you and her.

    • Thank you. It was something I hadn’t considered either, until I watched my mother. Most of the time she doesn’t know for sure who I am–or sometimes even exactly who she is–but she still teaches me.

  4. Another moving and helpful post. Music seems to be one of the last things our minds lose in dementia. It has an amazing capacity to heal, to evoke memories and to calm. Thanks for reminding us. And thanks for the love and care you continue to give to your Mom.
    I love the cards

    • You’re welcome, Rod.
      The reminder that music–the rhythms of our heartbeats and the humming of melodies we once knew–stays with us after other memories and thought processes have been lost, is a real comfort to me at this stage of my mother’s life…and my own.

  5. That’s amazing–and a testimony that even when we are confused, hurting, inarticulate and far-from-perfect, we have a beautiful capacity for comfort within us.

  6. I was doing that very thing earlier tonight with Lacey Mae age 2. she is fine mostly, during the day, but as soon as she is put to bed the tears startbfor no apparent reaon and she is waking up 2or 3 times a night crying her eyes out. This has been going on for a couple of weeks now and the Doctors and hosptal seem unable to give any reaon for it.

    Even a cuddle doesn’t bring her ant amelioration and she fights and struggles and cries. Her mum, our youngest Jennifer is knackered but Mollie, 9 and Shannon 6 take a turn in try to comfort their sister but….

    I suppose the comparison is that like your mom, Marylin, Lacey Mae probably has no dea what the problem is and can’t, like your mom, express it. Tough times, when we need to just give cuddles like the two in the photo, hope the link works….. Xx

    • You’re so right, Tom. You’re a wise, strong and caring grandpa to fill in the gaps when little Lacey Mae might not even know what’s bothering her. I remember a lecture in a college psychology class about the wonderful but tumultuous age of two, when children’s minds move so much faster than their language can express. And since language is how we make sense of thoughts and fears and needs by verbalizing them and getting responses, two-year-olds struggle for awhile in a gray area that leaves them confused and scared. Lacey is fortunate to have grandparents and older siblings put their arms around her and soothe her against the beats of their hearts.
      (p.s. I couldn’t get the link to work.)

  7. Such a sweet and tender piece. How difficult it must be to watch your mother go through these things. And how scary for her to experience events she doesn’t quite understand.

    • It is, Carrie. This was the worst phase of my dad’s Alzheimer’s, too, losing himself in confusing, unremembered scenes he couldn’t understand and that we couldn’t help him understand. For him, this resulted in frequent returns to the Rage Stage; with my mom, the sad confusion and sighing struggles to connect with what is happening is equally sad.

  8. It’s wonderful how she’s able to comfort you with memories, even when she’s in pain.

  9. Marylin, I’m so sorry to hear you mom fell and injured her wrist. The way you tied in the rhythm of a purring cat and music with your story was extremely well done. Bravo.
    And I love the kiddie’s artwork. Perhaps they should submit some artwork for my mindful masterpieces page. I’d love that. 🙂
    I have a spot open for my blog post on April 20th. So they’d have plenty of time.

  10. Alice

    Sending purring thought to your mama–and you.

  11. juliabarrett

    Truthfully I suspect she was soothing an injured child. This is your mother, all extraneous stripped away, still a caring, giving, soothing mother. Our cat purred the entire time she gave birth to four kittens. I found it interesting, especially when you compare the way television and movies portray screaming human women during labor.
    Does your mother’s place have a resident cat? If not they might want to get one.

    • I think you might be right, Julia. It would certainly ring true with the care she’s always given to heal the hurts of others.
      There isn’t a resident cat. Visitors occasionally bring in small, calm dogs for residents to pet, but not cats. A friend’s mother lived in the same facility before she died, and I know she was very allergic to cats, so maybe that’s a reason. My mother always loved the cats and kittens on the farm as she grew up, but we never could have cats because of my brother’s allergy…so maybe he would react again if she had one in her apartment.

  12. Your mother is so lucky to have your loving attention. Very tender post.

  13. Amy

    Hope she will heal sooner, It’s hurting to see dear mom is in pain…

  14. molly

    Hmmmm……mmmmmmm…..lalalala… grandma and I always have had songs in our hearts. I also do remember her being very cuddley and snuggley.

    Although there seems to be that connection between MY grandma and ME…..I know a MorMor who also hums often…and a grand daughter that actually does purr, while sleeping!

    I guess all four of us know little tricks to make ourselves and others feel better.

    I love this reminder of grandma. Thank you!

  15. What an interesting experience to share. I really hope your mom gets better soon. Those get-well-soon cards from the grandkids are so precious!

    • They really are cute cards. I mailed them yesterday. When the caregiver opens the envelope, even though I’ll have called and told Mom that her great-grandchildren made her cards, she won’t know who that is. But for a moment she’ll enjoy pictures that some children sent her, and for longer than that I think Grace and Gannon will remember how they felt creating cards for her even though she might not know who they are. At this point, the first goal is to create opportunities for them to show caring and compassion.

      • I agree, cards are as much for the sender as for the recipient. When my 6-year old’s teacher had surgery at the beginning of the school year, my son got home that day and said he wanted to make her a get well soon card. Very sweet.

  16. so tenderly conveyed…and I will always remember the correlation.

  17. Pingback: Thought Ripples: The Ethereal and Perception | Two Voices, One Song

  18. Absolutely! Give me hums, purrs and Advil any time.

  19. What a wonderful connection. My step-mother is a Music Thanatologist, now retired. Music Thanatology uses harp music to ease the dying process, helping the dying person relax and reduce the pain. She says it also helps the family and care givers. Seems very similar to what you witnessed with your mother. Our brains are incredible things, even when they aren’t working exactly right. So much we don’t understand.

  20. A very touching post – especially for those of us who have traveled that road with our mothers. It is very therapeutic for animals to be around the elderly also

    • Animals can do so much good.
      We were surprised to learn that in one nursing home, so many residents fear having the resident cat come into their room and jump onto the bed with them. They’re afraid it means they’ll die soon because in several cases it was true.
      Mostly, though, I think gentle dogs and cats offer comfort and joy to the patients.

  21. Dear Marylin that made me so so sad and it made me cry a little bit from Shanon. Age 6

    • Marylin, when we were sitting at the breakfast table I let Shannon see that there were comments on her blog she was amazed when I told her that you and Jaye were from America ‘Wowwwwww’ was the response and then her dad Steve came into the kitchen and she literally screamed at him breathlessly ‘dad, dad, come see this two ladies in America have left comments on MY BLOG!

      I thought I would tell her a bit about you and your mom and showed her this post which she read and as she read it she started to cry. I asked if she was Ok and she replied yes but that she thought it was so sad that mommies didn’t remember things but the letter was very nice and the pictures were excellent!

      • Shannon is darling, Tom, and I love hearing the stories about your family and all the interactions. There are many precious similarities between our two extended families. Your granddaughter’s sensitive concern for mommies forgetting things was very touching. I wanted to hug her…and so did our 8-year-old Gannon, the rough and tumble little wrestler and football player, but also the sensitive kid who comforts anyone who is sad or upset.

    • Thank you for visiting my blog, Shanon. My grandchildren, Grace (9) and Gannon (8) write posts and leave comments some times, and I love it.
      My mother is 94 and until a few years ago she was sharp-minded, active, funny, busy, and enjoyed every moment. After my dad died, she slowed down, and now the dementia makes her forgetful. It’s a part of getting old for many people. But we love her and try to help her remember, and when we take her on walks (she’s in a wheelchair) she smiles at the ducks who waddle up for bread. S
      She’s usually not in pain, Shanon, except for the bruises from her fall.
      Thank you for your concern, and please visit us again.
      You have a wonderful grandpa, and I appreciate his comments and the link he sent us on Alzheimer’s/dementia research in the UK was very helpful. It makes this process easier, having such good friends.

  22. I wish her well. This is quite touching.

  23. Jim

    Very nice post, Mor Mor. Glad Grandma is resting better. Recovery is so slow. I have vivid memories of my grandma humming while she rocked me in an old-fashioned wooden rocking chair. Also, it seems I have heard of studies suggesting that cats can lower a human’s blood pressure simply by curling up on the subject’s lap and purring. And you’re purrrfect, Mor Mor.

  24. Marti Smith


    Marilyn, this was beautiful– and brought back a strong memory for me, of my own mother. I enjoyed this post very much– and hope your mother is continuing to heal.

  25. Beautiful Marilyn. Your writings always touch my heart. Hugs to you and prayers for your mother. What a wonderful, beautiful person you have in your life, and she in her life. You give her great honor through your telling of her story. Blessings, Robyn

  26. petit4chocolatier

    A delicate reminder Marilyn of how we each take things for granted in life. Your writing was beautiful of how things change when someone has dementia. Virtual hug to you and your family.

  27. Dear Marilyn, Prayers and blessings for your mother and you. Ellen

  28. Very sweet. Glad you could be there just when she needed you most.

    • Oh, Nancy, I’m afraid that at this point, almost any day would offer the chance to be there when she needed something. More and more it seems she can do less and less, and the confusion brings on lots of opportunities to help her. I’m so glad she has good caregivers who are there with her every day.

  29. Such a loving post – your connection with your mom is so vivid and full – yes, I believe we humans purr in our own way (and my dog purrs when I pet him or even just talk to him soothingly). Thank you for sharing this.

    • Thanks for joining in the conversation.
      Through the years, I’ve heard young children “mimic” the sounds of their pets as they nod off to sleep. I think we’re connected on many levels.

  30. Best wishes to your Mom, Marilyn. My hubby broke his wrist in December. At first the doctor thought a cast would be what he needed. By early January, the doctor scheduled my hubby for surgery. It is a long road to recovery. Your attentiveness, concern and love will help her when she needs it most.

  31. Thanks, Judy. According to the x-rays and check ups, there are no broken bones, just a lot of painful bruising on the thin wrist, arm and shoulder of a 94-year-old lady. As with your husband, this will be a long road to recovery.

  32. I really love this post Marylin,Thanks for sharing my friend 🙂

  33. This was such a touching post Marylin. Although it must be heartbreaking to watch your mother lost to herself and to those around her it is so beautiful that you can see beyond that and still learn from her. She is so fortunate to have such a loving daughter.

  34. Hi Marylin, we are new to your blog by way of mutual blogging friend Darla Writes & are happy to have found you. As a mother/daughter writing team your blog will be a great inspiration to us. Loved the post & look forward to stopping by more often. Keeping you in our prayers.

  35. dianabletter

    Just fabulous, Marylin! When my children were sick and having trouble falling asleep, I used to breathe in rhythm with their breaths. Breaths joining, in and out, seemed to have a very soothing effect. I have also breathed with my mother who is 86 and on an oxygen machine. It is calming, like listening to the ocean’s waves.
    Thanks for sharing this. I encourage all your readers to try breathing with someone struggling or in pain or unable to communicate with you.

    • Thank you, Diana. You’re right, the way we would hold our children and breathe with them when they were very young. Aw, remember those days?
      And we hold our breaths for them during all the tough times that follow.
      But it’s an excellent reminder to try breathing with someone struggling or in pain. I found that mimicking my mother’s hand movements–the way she patted the wounded hand with her good hand–also worked to connect me to her, and it relaxed me, too.

  36. poppytump

    It’s lovely to hear that she was able to achieve some comfort from pain by her own soothing humming … Marylin .
    on a lighter note me – I wriggle my toes wildly if in pain !

  37. Thanks for the smile! I wriggle my toes when I’m in pain, too, or sometimes I shake my hands or make claws. There’s no hiding pain for me!

  38. So beautiful. My grandmother has dementia and is on her deathbed so this post is especially touching to me today. Thank you for sharing. I’m sorry you are experiencing this struggle, but so glad for the little blessings along the way.

  39. Oh dear! I wish your mum a speedy recovery!! Take care!!

  40. Thanks for the good wishes. With nothing broken, eventually it will heal. But it takes time…and a lot of patience.

  41. You are such a good daughter! Your mother is so lucky to have you there for her during this time.

    • Thank you so much. The healing was a trial for us both during my January visit. She had fallen several days before I arrived. Then when I was trying to help her, I took a fall. It taught me true empathy for what she was going through.

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