Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Pause in Advent 2014: Week Two - Being Present

pause in adventMy Pause this second week of Advent is on the subject of being present. Thank you so much to everyone who commented on last week's Pause for your loving and very kind words.

On Sunday I'd hoped to sit and consider what my Pause might be as nothing particular had sprung to mind and I didn't want to write something trite. However, life brought me a lesson! My Mother has been increasingly unwell cognitively and is presumed to be in pain. For the last fortnight she's been distressed and irrational including refusing her medication which now has to be given covertly. I am not going to go into the gory details but despite the best efforts of the wonderful carers she was a ball of fury and no-one could connect with her on Sunday. It was all they could do to get her into some clothing as she had been naked, livid with rage and lashing out on the half landing of the main staircase.

When I arrived it was clear she had no idea who I was which is the first time there was absolutely no recognition and her behaviour included purposefully trying to push the carers and myself down the long flight of stairs. The attention was simply fuelling her distress so I suggested they leave her with me and I sat on the steps on one of the wings of the staircase within reach to grab her if necessary. I tried all my tricks to get through to her to absolutely no avail and eventually resorted to feigning calmness and disinterest while being alert to making sure she was safe. Many times while I sat there I questioned what the heck I was doing. I was doing nothing to improve the situation and anyone could have done the same for her. There seemed to be no value to our relationship as the connection was broken on her side. She persisted in standing for two and a half hours which was obviously causing her great discomfort but she was absolute in her refusal to sit as she knew better than everyone. Eventually, she began finally giving into the pain and effort of standing and she agreed to sit beside me on the stair. When she accepted my hand to help ease her down she leant against me in distress, and I have to admit I just sat cuddling her with tears pouring down my face at seeing her so distraught and out of control, oblivious to who I was which was heart-breaking.

Obviously, this is a personal story which has little to do with Advent on the face of it. However, afterwards it has made me reflect on the nature of 'being present' which is a facet of the reciprocal relationship with God. Relationships sometimes seem deepest in those times where neither party asks anything of the other beyond being there and knowing an unconditional love which transcends words or actions. I have always loved the Footprints poem and the hymn Walk with me O my Lord which characterise the element of God's relationship with us which enables us to live our lives while feeling the comfort of having his strength nearby.

Being present can be both an active role of witnessing or it can be a passive, loving and non-judgemental role which contains humanity, humility and compassion all of which are intangible but deeply felt. Being present can also refer to engaging in the present moment.

Being present with my Mother on that staircase listening to the rain drumming on the glass cupola overhead met a need neither of us could articulate. I felt utterly useless and wondered why I continued to sit there as clearly I wasn't 'doing' anything yet I felt compelled to remain. It also made me think of my own relationship with God this Advent.

I have been trying to throw myself into Christmassy things, to power through work and make an effort with the house. I thought this purposefulness and activity was me being present in the moment which would strengthen my connection with God, allow me to hear his voice and embrace his presence. Yet Sunday showed me that being still, attending and pausing to be present can be of equal value. Just as we often call on God to bestow the blessing of his presence in our lives we perhaps also need to be reminded that the quiet gift of being present is something we too can give to someone in need.


  1. Beautifully put! I have no words to say that will help you or your mother but as you say just being present is often all that we can offer. You are both in my thoughts and prayers.

  2. This might be the most poignant, and beautiful post you have ever written. I am in awe of your ability to see things through with your Mother as I know you are the only one doing so. It must have been so distressing feeling you were not able to help, but by being there you were a significant help and you brought her back down. Bless her heart, but mostly bless yours because she does not know who she is when in that state, but you do.
    Sending you the biggest hug ever,

  3. Hugs ....a bit wet through the tears,but hugs anyway.
    Jane xxxx

  4. God bless you, for your love and patience - may He be with you in these awful moments, as you support her through the hell she is experiencing. Weeping with you - and remember that there are lots of us praying for you and sending virtual hugs through the ether. Thank you SO much for writing your very poignant Pause during such a difficult time. Blessings xx

  5. I wish that I had something wonderful to say to make it all better, but I don't and I can't. What I can say is that I am sure that you are doing a wonderful job of dealing with all this even though it is so incredibly hard. It is no fun, but I wish that I could make it all better for you and your Mum. I am sending massive hugs and love to you and I am here if you need someone to "talk" to. xx

  6. What a blessing you are by giving your prescience to your Mother. It sounded like a terrible situation, and heart wrenching for you as you sat on that staircase. Your waiting there, seemingly alone and stolid, was such a gift you gave. Perhaps it was one of the greatest gifts you gave this Advent season.

    You and your mother will be in my prayers.

  7. You were there. You cared, you waited and you listened. That is beyond what many of us do and God knows that and your mother knew it too, though it took her time to accept a shoulder to lean on.xx

  8. Sometimes, just being present is all you can do.

  9. What a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing your heart, your story, and your anguish in regard to your mother and her struggle. I am moved by your words and reminded of how important our presence is. Thank you.

  10. What a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing your heart, your story, and your anguish in regard to your mother and her struggle. I am moved by your words and reminded of how important our presence is. Thank you.

  11. I am so sad to read about the distress of your mother's stage of illness. Even if your mother is not recognising you as her daughter I am sure at some level her consciousness somehow knew what you were doing and sensed your love, even if she cannot express it appropriately. Even though you felt useless, rest assured you were not.
    It breaks my heart to know that you are both suffering so, and I admire your strength, patience and courage in the way you deal with it. Thank you for the lessons you give us by demonstrating the power of presence and for the thoughtful reflection this Advent season.
    Hugs and hugs and hugs xxx


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