The power of presence

“Perhaps the most important thing we bring to another person is the silence in us, not the sort of silence that is filled with unspoken criticism or hard withdrawal.  The sort of silence that is a place of refuge, of rest, of acceptance of someone as they are.  We are all hungry for this other silence.  It is hard to find.   In its presence we can remember something beyond the moment, a strength on which to build a life.  Silence is a place of great power and healing .”                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                        — Rachel Naomi Remen

A few years ago, I had uncontrolled vomiting in the middle of the night. My husband, being a physician, usually takes care of any illness in our family, but he was traveling and my mother, who is not a doctor, was staying with us to help out.

My younger son woke to the sounds and walked to the bathroom to check out the scene. Wordlessly, he went to get his grandmother to help, and returned to bed. Lucky him.

My mother asked if she should call the doctor or do anything. I told her that I already called, that they suggested that I go into the hospital but I wanted to stay home.

I was getting sick more and more frequently, until it got to the point where I would just lay on the bathroom floor, knowing it would be only minutes before I had to return anyway.

So, my mother got a pillow and blanket for me, then she sat. All night long, she sat in a rocker in my room, there in case I needed her. I’m sure she felt helpless, but she sat, awake, trusting my call. I was getting snippets of sleep, but every time I woke, she was there, unintrusive but clearly ready to help if I needed her. My vomiting finally subsided in the early morning light, when she then had to feed the kids and get them to school while I slept.

Recently, I had horrific stomach cramps late at night. My husband had to work the next day, and because I want well-rested radiologists reading my scans, I felt like he should be well-rested for his patients. I asked him to go another room to get some sleep.

The pains had me screaming, waking my older son, who came to see how I was doing. He sat next to me, with a hand on my stomach, not saying a word. If you know our older son, this wordlessness in itself is rare. But there he sat, focused and breathing healing energy into my body. Again, I got snippets of sleep, and every time I woke, he was there, watching me and reassuring me, in a soothing voice, that it would be alright.

The past couple of days, I was ill from chemo and the dog did not leave my side. His body on the bed, touching my legs or feet, he only left when someone carried him outside. He would stay outside for only a moment and then run back to my side.

Each time, in the midst of my physical pain, each person’s (and our dog’s) presence made me feel immeasurably better, calmer, less alone in my funky experiences. It helped me to stay the course.

I am not someone who naturally can just sit with someone. I need to do, or to talk. I prefer to multitask; doing just one thing feels like slowing down. I cannot imagine sitting, just being there, totally present, especially in the face of feeling helpless.

Yet, this was the most valuable to me, in these weird, dark moments, and the best medicine I could have. I feel awe for the power of being, of holding space, transferring positive healing energy, and am grateful.

1 thought on “The power of presence

  1. This is what moms do and what we do for our moms. Aidan is so young I am surprised he could slip into this important role but I am glad he could. I am sorry you have such difficult, painful times and I am relieved you are not alone during them. It does make such a difference just to know someone is there for you. We are here for you and sending you light and love.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s