I often underestimate the power of simply being present.
Showing up seems a minor thing in life. It’s not much of an accomplishment, simply to be there, to walk onto the stage of whatever play needs your attendance. At least, that’s what I used to think. But, I was wrong. Showing up is everything.
Yesterday, I showed up at my father in law’s funeral and wake. I was simply present, I thought. I was the supportive spouse, I was the most senior son in law. I offered hugs and quiet consoling words. I wept during the eulogy, and held my wife’s hand during the playing of “Taps” and the folding and presentment of the American flag to my mother in law, a recognition of my father in law’s courageous and bloody service to his country.
Yet, during the day, I was blessed with numerous quiet conversations with family members, as we retold stories of my father in law’s life, a life of service, not just to his country and community, but to his family. Many stories were told of him speaking quietly, and often bluntly, teaching lessons of honesty, work ethics, determination, and personal independence. And, all the story tellers and all the story listeners had been impacted. All of us were changed because of this quiet man, the mill wright, the farmer, the teller of stories and the singer of songs.
My father in law was often a man of few words when it came to dilemmas in our lives, and in the giving of advice. He let everyone walk down their own path. Yet, we all felt his strength in who he was, a man of self determination and a man of personal integrity. He let us make our own mistakes, yet he was a model of how to get where a person wanted to go in life. His toolbox was rich and plentiful, and he offered those tools freely. All you had to do was accept his presence in your life, and accept his presents to you.
We often discount what we mean to other people, and the strength and courage that we simply provide to other people by our listening, our support, and the power of just being there, being present, for someone.
“You can do it,” can be spoken softly, accompanied with a nod of the head, a twinkle in our eye, a hug.
What that means to another person can make all the difference.
My nephew and his wife suffered a miscarriage this week. There are really no words that can take away that pain, that grief, that chaos that is tearing through their lives. We hugged, we wept, and I held his hands, as he told me the story, told me of their dreams for their child, and how that death intertwined with the death of his beloved grandfather. And, in all of that emotion this week, the fabric of his life is really not torn and ripped, but rewoven, and strengthened, becoming more beautiful.
My father in law was present in my life. Our deep, meaningful conversations were few in number, but contained the riches of his life. His wisdom resonated deep in my soul, and I always felt his presence in my life.
We were all present yesterday, as we celebrated his life, listened to his favorite music, and retold his favorite stories. Photos and memories were shared, along with his trademark red bandanna. His love and presence filled the funeral home chapel, and there were tears, and laughter, and smiles. We came together, again, because of him, because of his presence in our lives.
---Neal Lemery 12/18/2011