Over the nearly 20 years I have been a practicing physical therapist, I have worked in a variety of settings, from home health, to outpatient orthopedics, from pediatrics, to geriatrics. I am grateful for my education, training, skills, and experience to be able to assist individuals in attaining their heartfelt mission. This is one of my true passions—sharing what I know with others. Yet, I am always humbled by what I learn from my patients and all the little golden nuggets of treasure they share with me.
For about that same 20 years, I’ve been married to my husband, and I still at times pinch myself to awake from this dream that brought a boy from Louisville, Kentucky, and a girl from Sioux City, Iowa, together to meet in a cabin in the woods in a little town called Freedom, New Hampshire. What stars aligned! What magic has brought us to this home we now share in the Loess Hills! That created our three children, perfect in their unique ways, that beautiful blend of both of our genes, our ancestors, and of course, their own individual shine. Even though our kids don’t remember our grandparents, I see these strong connections nearly every day. So, I always find such sentimental and touching moments when I am visiting with the elderly populations I often serve. I can’t help but think about the times I spent with my own grandparents—our talks, the stories they’d share (no matter how many times I heard them in the past).
Remembering these moments and re-experiencing these connections with our ancestors means the world to me. We wouldn’t be here without them, of course. We share so much of their lives, even those who passed long before us. These special moments are solidified when Sawyer points out a picture of Grandma Elnora, sweetly calling out “Mamaw” on what I thought was just a random moment. I reminded Sawyer of what a special angel she is in heaven looking out after her every day. Later that day Ryan reminds me, “It’s Mamaw’s birthday today.” “Well, of course,” I say. “Sawyer told me.” Or when Liam wears some Cubs gear, I’m transported to my Grandpa Swede hollering and swearing about Ernie Banks or Ryne Sandberg or Sammy Sosa. I look at pictures of my dad’s Grandpa Fennel, someone I never met, and I see Nolan’s sweet gaze and dark eyes. He looks exactly like him in the face, even as the old man I see in a photo from more than 100 years ago. And I am astonished when I see my younger brother’s two boys, who are like little clones of our two boys, just eight years ago. The roots and our connection go long and deep.
As a PT, I’ve been honored to work with some of the “Greatest Generation.” A patient I will never forget would share his stories over the past century each time I would visit. I listened and often cried. He would talk about serving in the war, saying, “I was very lucky to have those experiences. The military allowed me to see the world. I don’t consider myself a hero. I just went out there and did what I was told. And by the grace of God, I survived.” Like the military heroes beside him and before him, they didn’t discuss the gory details of war but highlighted the positive experiences, the friends, their fellow soldiers, and the family who waited for them at home.
This sweet man would often talk about missing his bride. “I pray to her every night and tell her I cannot wait to dance with her in heaven.” This old man in his late nineties had been holding this vigil daily for almost three decades, losing his wife when she was 65.
One of my favorite gigs was a “Fun Fitness Friday” I would offer with a fellow PT at Bickford Senior Living. These folks had no memory. A few may recall our faces, but most were never quite sure why we were there. We’d bring balls, drumsticks, parachutes and scarves. It never took long for them to let go of the fear, and to move, connect, feel, breathe, laugh, grow, and practice for that balance through life.
On early out days for Sawyer at school, I’d sometimes bring my little assistant with me. They loved it. She always went around and hugged every one of them. Some in wheelchairs, some non-verbal, some introverts, it didn’t matter—everyone hugged her. I heard one woman tell her how she reminded her of her own great-grandkids, others hugged her thinking maybe she was their own great-grandkid, some held on for several moments, Sawyer never once backed away.
Besides the games and fun, movement and hugs, we all had moments to be alone with ourselves. On one occasion, one of the ladies chimed in, “Yes, I see, it is all about connection.”
I exhale a slow deep breath. I feel safe, rooted, grounded. I feel the love. I feel it from me and for me, and from and for all of Creation. I feel the connection. And I know it’s real. And that is what life is for and about.
Lumin Therapy provides integrative health and education for the mind, body, and spirit to those who are suffering or struggling to step into and live their heartfelt mission and purpose. Through the practice of physical therapy, medical therapeutic yoga, meditation, mindfulness, and resiliency mentoring, Dr. Meghan Nelson, DPT, and Dr. Ryan Allen, PhD, bring their over forty-plus combined years of knowledge and experience serving individuals, families, and organizations to learn and heal and live without boundaries.
By Meghan Nelson & Ryan Allen