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The Gift of Presence
One of the blessings of my ministry of spiritual companioning at Laurel Lake Retirement Community was the opportunity to get to know more personally the residents who lived there. Each was unique. Each had a very individual story to tell. And each person taught me something about life, about loss, about caring throughout life and after death. Last week I visited there over lunch with a group that continues to meet regularly to share their faith; I stopped afterward to visit someone who used to stop by my office and just chat. He was an avid reader of spiritual books among other things, so we often exchanged insights about authors and pursued some of what they were exploring. As I reflect back, there was much more exchanged than the content of our conversations. The time together created a bond of friendship that remains and that continues as a blessing in my life.
The pandemic put a halt to visits during the past several years, but we picked up where we left off and I know that I won’t wait such a long time to realize the blessing of this form of presence. In the Congregational Chapter prior to that of 2020, our prayer together brought us to a new awareness of a word that had not been prominent for us previously. . . PRESENCE. That came back to me as I thought about my ministry in the past and as I reflect on ways to minister to others since my retirement. I found it reflected in a poem written by an eighty-year old woman, Marion Martin Dickes, in her collection: Into Eighty & Summer Days:
I appreciate your gift, yes, but you don’t need to bring anything.
My needs are small. I’m just glad you stopped by on your busy day.
What I need is not more Sunday clothes
a new, famous perfume, or the latest shade of cosmetics
and please, no earrings – they pinch My ears are not pierced and never will be.
No candy nor cake – a little strawberry jam, perhaps fresh and home made or some little thing you made with me in mind.
I could use a new teakettle a skillet, a pretty apron, oven mitts, my knives sharpened, the windows washed.
I’d like some things reached down from high shelves if you have time now or later – maybe soon.
Yes, I enjoy flowers – simple flowers.
Daisies, cornflowers, zinnias in oranges and pinks not exotic orchids or a lei of skewered white plumeria fragrant while expiring.
Most of all I value the gift of your presence.
Could you come more often?
Each of my days is fresh with opportunities as well as duties. But now is the time to commit to regular visits of older and some younger friends who have been a part of my life journey. My calendar is more mine to arrange these days and there are ways to be sure that one is careful to avoid Covid…( that would not be a gift to anyone.)
As I realize that each day brings me closer to being eighty, I am grateful for the time, the friends and the opportunities to continue the ministry of Presence that blesses always.