Practicing the Art of Being

This morning my mom left Minnesota for a month in sunny Arizona (oh, to be retired), and I called her last night to see how the packing was going.

After chatting for awhile I said, “Well, I should let you get back to your packing.”

But as usual, the conversation continued for another ten minutes. We talked about nothing, really. She mostly seemed to be talking to herself as she packed her make-up, lotions, and shampoos into a small carry-on. As I listened, I remembered a conversation we had last week about how tired she is of being alone all the time since Gordy died, that she misses having someone to talk to.

So I asked her, “You just like having me on the phone, don’t you?”

“Yes,” she said. “I kind of do.” So I decided that while she packed, I would make an egg bake dish to refrigerate for breakfast in the morning.

We stayed on the phone together for a long time, chatting about nothing as if she were sitting on the stool in my kitchen. It felt nice to be doing ordinary things while talking about nothing in particular. I’ve never lived near my mom since I’ve been an adult, and this experience made me think about what I’ve been missing being so far from her.

It also made me think about grieving and the many nuances of working through it. Sometimes I think it’s easy to miss the most important way we can support someone who is grieving: just being there. I often default to Helping others in need by bringing meals, or cleaning a house, or caring for small children, when sometimes just being on the other end of the phone is all that is needed.

A friend of mine once spoke about grieving in terms of the book of Job in the Bible:

2:11 When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. 12 When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. 13 Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.

Before Job’s friends went all conspiracy theory on him, their first response was to just sit quietly and grieve with him. Those of us who are fixers and problem solvers have trouble with this. We feel it is not enough to just be present; we need to be DOING something. Sitting on the phone with my mom last night, I learned the value in just being with her. It is exactly what she needed.

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