What Death and Vacation Have in Common

We live in a time when we are more distracted than ever. We all know what the distractions are (phone, internet, technology, etc.), so I won’t spend time harping on them.

This past week I had the privilege of spending uninterrupted quality time with my family in a house that was in the middle of nowhere. This is not an exaggeration. The closest grocery store was 30 minutes away, and you had to take a ferry to get to the closest major city. The house was large, gorgeous, and on the water, but it did not have wi-fi, and I have a pretty poor data plan which was all but used up.

I was looking forward to unplugging. I packed seven or eight books, my laptop for writing, and my guitar. I was looking forward to no distractions and a deep dive into creative thought.

One week later, not a single book was cracked. The only guitar played was a little diddy I wrote about my 2-year-old nephew, whose lyrics included, "He loves to play choo-choo, he's a big boy at 2."

And it was wonderful.

Every morning I’d wake up between 6 and 7 to come out to the kitchen to see my bleary eyed big brother and sister in law feeding their (almost) 9 month old and 2 year old, after a night of no sleep thanks to the developmental milestone of crawling coupled with teething, which equaled constant feeding and crying. Bless them.

I poured myself some delicious coffee and got straight into playing with my nephew. Toddlers and babies are no joke! Every minute was filled with action. Every minute demanded full presence, no email checking, no book reading (unless it was Thomas the train), and I loved it.

The week flew by, and the moments when the boys were sleeping were met with quality time with my parents, husband, brother, and sister-in-law. There was something so wonderful about being all in and not having time to think about creating, about work, about doing. Toddlers demand that you just be, and it was more refreshing than I could have predicted.

The vacation has me thinking about ways that I can incorporate more presence into my daily adult life. How can I be more engaged when I’m spending time with the ones I love?

The last 10 days has also marked the slow-passing of my husband’s grandmother.

We spend time with her in a beautiful room in Hospice, as she slowly crosses over. We have said our messages of thanks and love, and now there are no words left to say, and no things left to do. We pray over her and we sing her old hymns, and as she slips away, all that is left is presence.

Presence is all we have to give. To just be. To bear witness, to offer our touch as we hold her unresponsive hand.

In the end, presence is the greatest gift of all.

A wise therapist once told me,

“Never underestimate the healing power of being truly present to another person’s pain. You may be the only person to ever offer that person empathy and complete presence that says, ‘you’re not alone and I care about you.’ It is like balm for the soul.”
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