On Being Present

Coffee_cup_3 This morning I am in Florence, Alabama for the funeral of the father of a close friend.  Last night at the funeral home, there was "visitation" for two different families.  Many, many people were coming and going.  There were long lines for both families.  Throughout this funeral home, one could hear lots of conversation. 


Now who are you?


Oh I wouldn’t have recognized you!


I haven’t seen you in years!


Now where are you living?


As I was waiting in line, it struck me that everybody in that place just wanted to be present.  After all, when someone dies, there is no fix.  Yes, he was a Christian and has "gone home to be with the Lord."  Yet, there is no way to ease the grief or take away the sadness of such a change in their lives.  The best thing friends and family can do is just be present.  There is something to be said for just "showing up".  How many people do you know who are really present with you through life?  How many people do you know who are really engaged and connected with you?


Years ago, a man told me about losing his son in the Vietnam war.  When news came that his son had been killed, some friends made comments that made the occasion more difficult than it already was.  One man said, "Another flower for God’s garden."  (Uhhhhh)  Others made comments which suggested that in some way, they were trying to explain this tragedy.  This man became very disgusted with all of this.


The night of visitation at the funeral home, many people were coming and going.  Finally, a man came into the room where the family was.  He was the grieving father’s fishing buddy.  He was wearing a pair of bibbed overalls.  When he approached his friend, he said:


I come to grieve with you.


With those simple words, he sat quietly near his friend, in that funeral home, for the rest of the evening.  He was present.


No matter the occasion, there is something to be said for really being present in one another’s lives.  Being present may have to do with listening or it may mean being a part of significant moments. 


Yes, most of us are going to experience times when we are just not present (either emotionally or physically).  On more than one occasion, I just wasn’t emotionally connected with the situation at the time.  Yet, I try to live with the intent to be present.  That intent may be the first step to being present.

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10 thoughts on “On Being Present

  1. Thanks for the great thoughts on being present in another’s time of mourning. It caused me to think about the Jewish traditions surrounding the loss of a loved one. They seem better equipped than we are to engage in the power of presence when someone is mourning. Interestingly enough, for them the time for “presence” with a mourner comes after the burial, and not for a few hours, but for a week. I think it is called “sitting shiva.” Anyway, your reflection on your own experience and the need for presence connected with me. Thanks.

  2. I know first hand the importance of Presence. On a particularlly horrible day in the hospital, it was such a comfort that people I loved dearly were just outside my door. Some never came in or spoke to me that day, but were THERE! How do people get through rough times without that?

  3. Yea, great words. My friend (and second in-charge of CU after me) recently lost her grandmother… simply being there for them means more than words. Because often words just don’t cut it.

  4. Thanks for your thoughts on grieving. To be present is the greatest gift to a family.

    Would you mind elaborating on the funeral you attended? I am from Russellville, Alabama (North Highlands Church of Christ) originally and might know the person.

  5. Ann,
    Would you mind e-mailing me and I will be happy to give you some more details. (jim@crestview-church.org)

    I would prefer not to put those details in a comment. Please write.