She's Re-Teaching Me How to Listen

Hello, my friends.

As some of you know, I've been on a bit of a difficult journey this past year. God has been teaching me much through this year about who I am and how he made me to exist and bring life into this world. I'm so thankful for what he's been teaching me, as I feel such joy when I'm embracing the life he gave me to live . . . but the road to getting there on this particular leg of the journey has been painful indeed.

So much of this past year's journey concerns loss: loss of relationships, loss of opportunities, loss of experiences, and simply the loss of being present to the people I dearly love. Now, as I turn round the corner of these losses to the other side, I'm beginning, slowly but surely, to re-embrace those relationships, those experiences, that presence.

I have a ways to go to re-learn these things. I am so terribly out of practice.

One part of who I am that I've come to cherish much in recent years is my ability to listen. It is so very important to me that people be heard and be seen, and particularly in ways that are only their own to hold, without any competition from those hearing them or seeing them in needing to be heard or be seen themselves in those moments. Just holding people as they are and where they are and with what they have to speak, being fully attentive to them alone in the moment . . . that is one of the most important values I hold in life. I love offering that level of presence to others.

This is one of those gifts that went virtually unused through this past difficult year. So I am now on the road to re-learning how to listen. I am re-learning how to offer presence. I am re-learning how to be with someone without my own agenda or need to speak.

Kirsten is re-teaching me how to do this through her journey. She doesn't even know she is my teacher right now, but she is. And I'm thankful, even as my clumsiness in this place so incredibly humbles me.

On the night they said goodbye to Ewan, I received a special call from Kirsten. When I saw her name displayed on my phone as it rang, my body immediately tensed and my mind began racing. Earlier that day, we had learned that he had an infection and that his body was rejecting antibiotics. We knew it would be a day of difficult decisions for Kirsten and James. And there was her name, displayed on my phone.

She told me they were indeed preparing to say goodbye to their beautiful boy, and all I could do in that moment was cry out and weep with her. Tears flowed between us. "It's not fair," she said. And out of my mouth flew the words, over and over: "I'm so sorry . . . I'm so sorry . . . I'm so sorry."

I didn't know what to say. How can we ever know, really, in circumstances like this?

But it wasn't until after that initial moment of pain and shock subsided that I became self-conscious and realized I didn't know or have the right words to say. I fumbled a few times. I am pretty sure I said several dumb and unhelpful things.

I was so out of the practice of offering presence.

Yesterday, Kirsten reminded me how to begin again. She wrote on Ewan's blog:

Many have been struggling with the desire to say something that will help. Let me take that pressure away: there is nothing to be said that will take away or diminish our grief, even though we know that we do not grieve as those without hope. We understand that, and we certainly don't expect it. One of the hardest (but best) things to do is to sit in silence with someone who is grieving -- simply to sit and to be present without the need to offer words. 

I am holding this reminder so close, and will continue to do so. She's re-teaching me right now how to listen, as it is what she most needs from me.