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The Gift of Presence

A dear friend of mine lost her mom to vascular dementia in January of this year. I asked her to write out her experience because of the unique role she played in the care of her mom.

First a little background. My friend’s sister noticed that their mom was having some difficulty with what we call “sequencing.” So, for example, she lost the ability to count numbers in the proper order. That started about 15 years ago.

“Marie” was still able to live on her own and drive until 9 years ago when she got lost going to the library which was a very familiar route for her. Food preparation was taken over at that time by my friend’s sister, however, Marie was able to do her own laundry, vacuum the floors, and could bathe herself.

As time passed, Marie was unable to care for herself and she required more care from her 2 daughters, and then agency caregivers. About 18 months before Marie died, she was moved to a nursing home.

My friend has what is called the Gift of Presence.

Four times a week after work she would go and sit with her mom. Sometimes to help her eat dinner, and then later to feed her. Always she would sing “Jesus Loves Me” with her mom. As time went on Marie was unable to sing the words but would nod her head as my friend sang to her. Most times my friend would just sit and hold her mom’s hand.

In the pre-pandemic world, long ago and far away, were we just present with others? Were we in the moment with them? Or did our iPhones and busy-ness drag our attention away from the needs and cares of others?

Now, in this never-ending pandemic world, I find that I have such a longing to be with family and friends. When I think of others, or I’m communicating with them, my heart is literally reaching out to them. I want to be present with them. I want to just sit with them and hold their hands. I want to hug everyone I know and many I don’t know!

“Zooming” with family, friends and business associates has taken off because we can see and interact with each other. Unfortunately, it has not worked well with my mom, who has macular degeneration and poor hearing. Good news is that her assisted living facility started supervised social distancing visits. My mom was thrilled to see my brother and me this past week.

So think, will you go back to the harried pre-pandemic pace or will you be content with sitting quietly and holding a family member or friend’s hand? In the devotional “Jesus Calling”, Sarah Young writes “Here and now comprise the coordinates of your daily life.” May it be so for me and you.

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