Sometimes life challenges us, and it’s in those moments that we find out who we really are and what’s really important to us. The last two years have been incredibly difficult for me and my wife as we saw several people from our families pass away or fall seriously ill. It seemed like my wife and I were given a crash course on grief over the last 2 years as one tragedy was quickly followed by another.
In December 2015, my grandfather passed away 9 days before Christmas. Later in June 2016, two days before my wife and I got married, my wife’s mother passed away. Then, 4 days after the wedding my uncle passed away from a freak blood infection while we were on honeymoon. My uncle’s funeral was followed by my dad spending about 3 months in the hospital due to liver complications where he was given a 2% chance to live. Luckily, my pops fought his disease bravely and began to heal later in that same year. After my dad got back on to his feet we were hit with another death as my grandmother fell seriously ill and passed away in December 2016 (almost exactly one year after her husband passed). And lastly, I just found out three weeks ago that mom has been diagnosed with a serious and life-threatening illness.
For those of you keeping track, that’s 4 deaths and 2 major illnesses in 24 months and that doesn’t even count the health issues my wife’s grandparents, and herself personally, have been going through over the last year.
So, why did I tell you about all these terrible experiences in my life? Is it to make you feel bad for me? Is it to show you how strong and resilient I am?
The reason I share these tragedies with you is because I want to show you just how precious life is. It can come and go at any moment and none of us know how much borrowed time we have left on this earth.
Buddhism teaches us that nothing is permanent and nothing lasts forever. It also teaches us that suffering is a common human experience and trying to avoid it is a losing proposition. So, if we can’t avoid suffering and we can’t stop people from leaving this world, what can we do to make sure our time spent with loved ones is time well spent?
Last night my mom dropped by our house to say hello and fill us in on her prognosis. To be honest, her illness hadn’t really hit me until I saw her, and we talked about the implications. As we discussed her disease and treatment options, I couldn’t help but feel like this moment with my mom was incredibly important. No one knows what will happen after her treatment and even if it is successful, her illness could come back.
As we continued to talk I felt more and more compassion for her. Despite her circumstances, all my mom cared about was connecting with me and my wife. I thought to myself, “How could someone going through what she’s going through care about anything other than her health?” I know if it was me, I probably couldn’t care less about someone else’s problems.
But for my mom, the last person she was thinking about last night was herself.
When I realized just how selfless my mom was being I had an epiphany. If life is fleeting and suffering is inevitable, then how can we make the most of our time with loved ones?
In that moment, I realized that the greatest gift I could give to my mom was my presence. Rather than thinking about how I would react if I was her or what it would mean to me if her illness got worse, I could just be there with her. I could just listen to her speak and feel her energy in the room while she was with us. I could watch my mind while listening to her speak and bring my presence back any time I noticed my mind has wandered.
So, that’s exactly what I did…
Once I committed to giving my complete presence to my mother I felt my shoulders sink and my body relax. It felt almost therapeutic to stop worrying about myself for once. And my mom may have noticed as well, as she seemed more willing to talk about her fears and suffering once I gave her my full attention and presence.
At the end of the night, I felt like I got to know my mom better and my mom was able to get some stuff off her chest. Ultimately though, I felt like I had been present for a really important moment in my life and I realized that giving someone space to simply be, is one of life’s most powerful gestures.
After all, we don’t know how many more times we will meet with our loved ones in this lifetime. So, makes those moments count by giving others your complete presence. I promise you that being there for someone is much more effective when you are actually THERE for them…..If you know what I’m saying J
Thank you as always for reading. I sincerely hope you enjoyed this lesson and I would love to hear how you might have applied presence to a relationship in your life. What did it do for you, and your relationship?
Until next time,
Many many blessings!!