“How about this? How about when someone is before us, a real, live person, suffering, we be a person?…in that moment, when they are feeling their humanity so acutely or they have shown themselves to be a regular person like the rest of us, how about we surround them with the grace of being seen, being heard, and simply being loved?”
This is a brilliant piece by Sarah Bessey, which expresses something I so strongly believe in. The art of simply being present and being human when someone is suffering. I also love this post by Kathy Escobar about being ‘with’ and alongside people.
This is so hard to do. Everything inside us feels we should give some answer, some wise words, but usually there is none to give and if we try we just sound insensitive and trite. But what the person often needs is just other people walking alongside them, being present and being themselves. Some companionship on a dark road even if few words are spoken.
When a close friend of mine’s mum died suddenly, I felt maybe I should go and be with her. But everything in me was fearful. I didn’t know how to be with someone in such suffering. What would I say? Persuaded by a few friends to take courage, I decided to simply jump on a train and turn up, just the day after the tragedy. I stayed with her for a few days and then returned for more time later that month. It was easier than I thought. Lighter than I’d thought. I was just coming to be with her, not to offer answers or solutions, as I had none to offer. But I could offer myself: a shoulder to cry on, a friend to walk with, a praying presence in the house and a helping hand for the practicalities of living that have to continue, even when you feel the world should have stopped. And it was received and appreciated. It made a big difference to her and her grieving. It was a huge lesson for me that just offering myself is enough. I learnt that I carry peace within me because the ‘Prince of Peace’ is in me and so I can walk into a situation and inject peace and hope into it, often without even trying. That may sound arrogant but in fact it’s the opposite. It’s the realization that I have both nothing to give from myself and yet everything to give because of who is inside me.
But I didn’t always know that was the thing to do. I learnt the hard way. Another close friend of mine lost her mum a few years before and I mistakenly thought she didn’t need me or want me around. I was wrong and hurt her deeply. That’s one significant regret in my life.
Another situation happened more recently when a friend of mine who lives on the streets near my home had a miscarriage. I went with her to the hospital and simply stayed with her, prayed with her, held her hand through the pain, grief and bloody mess. It felt a huge privilege. We both knew we were on holy ground. We could feel the presence of God, bringing peace. I wrote a poem about that experience which I wasn’t sure whether I would share on the web but maybe I will. Watch this space.