Just be here: the power of presence

We settled in front of our TV to surrender to Downton Abbey Fever.  Lady Sybil suffered through labour as she struggled to bring her daughter into the world. Her trembling husband grasped her hand and asked if he could do something—anything.

“Just be here,” she said.

My husband and I glanced over at each other. “Just be here,” we repeated. I had said those exact words to him during labour when our son was born.

Sometimes presence is enough.

My son was facing the wrong direction in the birth canal. That meant excruciating back pain and lots of pushing with no progress. My husband watched helplessly. What’s worse? Enduring, or watching?

The nurse, with all good intentions, said, “Give her some encouragement. Talk to her.” My husband gamely did his best. “You’re doing great, honey.”

I clamped on to his wrist with a falcon-talon grip. Through clenched teeth I said, “Don’t speak. Just be here.”

When someone is in emotional or physical pain, we want to fix it, but some things can’t be fixed. When we can’t fix it, we try to find the right words to say to at least make it a bit better. We wish we could pull a portable script writer out of  our back pocket to spool out appropriately inspired words. Usually, because we try so hard, we go terribly wrong and end up saying the worst possible thing.

Sometimes presence is enough. Sometimes silent presence is preferable to awkward, forced words. There are no words for emotional or physical pain that can’t be fixed.

Just be there. Just be.


For more about Downton Abbey Fever, click here: Downton Abbey Fever

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