Walking into the nursing home, I nervously hoped to be of some comfort to my friend. Her father’s health gradually declining, she was preparing to be an orphan. Her mother had been gone for a number of years, and now her father’s death was imminent.
Standing with her in the small room her father occupied, the temptation was to offer words of encouragement to make her feel better. That’s what we’re supposed to do, right? Say nice things to people in pain?
In the frailty of this place for the aging and the dying, I went against my impulse and chose not to speak. Instead of offering up words, I would simply be quiet with my friend. I would be present with her.
Silence makes us uncomfortable. In a culture that screams with television, radio, and cell phones, we’re bombarded sound. It takes sincere effort to cut out all the noise in our life.
When others are in pain, we tend to search for answers to alleviate the situation. Let’s face it – being quiet with someone is awkward. But when we sit in silence with a hurting soul, we give them permission to grieve without words.
This week, multiple friends of mine are experiencing pain. One family, in particular, lost a dear friend in a tragic accident. In wanting to bring relief to their pain, my first incline would be to offer up words. But before rushing in, I stop myself and recognize that more than my words, my presence might be more beneficial.
Who might need the gift of your presence this week?
“We sit silently and watch the world around us. This has taken a lifetime to learn. It seems only the old are able to sit next to one another and not say anything and still feel content. The young, brash and impatient, must always break the silence. It is a waste, for silence is pure. Silence is holy. It draws people together because only those who are comfortable with each other can sit without speaking. This is the great paradox.” Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook
To read more of Heidi’s writing or to learn about Heidi and Ben Sadler’s ministry, subscribe to their blog at Chasing Ebenezer.