A hankering for hugs

When my father passed away over 25 years ago, the thing that I always remember is walking into the newspaper office on the Monday morning and a staff member coming over and giving me a huge hug and feeling good about it. That week is a blur, but throughout the week, many friends, relatives, and business associates of the newspaper came up and one way or another gave everyone of our family hugs.

Every hug that we received helped us to feel better. Every hug helped us to understand that there were people who cared about us and helped us to realize that life would go on. When I visit my mother at Rainycrest wearing a mask and being screened twice weekly, I wonder if a hug is permissible and hold off. It feels unnatural.

The history of the word hug may have begun in 1560’s from an Old Norse term “hugga” which translates to comfort or it may have arisen from a German term “hagen” meaning to foster or cherish. Hugging is an open act of caring. And amazingly enough it has only in the last 50 years been acceptable to hug in public.

From Victorian times we probably accepted that hugging was only permitted behind closed doors.

But through this past year with all the closures and shutdowns many hugs have gone missing. They have not only gone missing with the arrival of death, but with our everyday life. Gone are the greetings with a handshake of friends meeting each other. With households restricted to only people living there, public displays of hugging and being close have disappeared while we are safe from each other and practice social distancing.

Gone are the hugs of greeting children and grandchildren who live away from us and can’t travel here.

Gone are the fun dinners with family and friends celebrating holidays and birthdays.

As we reach our second spring of this pandemic, traditional Jewish and Christian celebrations remain cut short. The celebration of Passover has been restricted. The gatherings for Good Friday church services have been reduced. The celebrations of early morning sunlit Easter services have been restricted.

And the celebrations and greetings of friends for the second year are all but eliminated again.

A Carnegie Melon study found that hugging replaces words that don’t exist and have important medical benefits for people. Hugs reduce stress. Hugs reduce blood pressure and reduces heart rates. Hugs reduce insomnia. In this year of the pandemic with the fear, the anxiety, and mental stress, hugs may be more important than ever.

Jim Cumming
Former Publisher
Fort Frances Times

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail