The Honor of Your Presence

mother and daughter laughing

‘Tis the season. May and June are peak months for formal invitations to graduations, weddings, and assorted celebratory showers. The host requests the “honor of your presence” or, less formally, the “pleasure of your company.” That phrase has me thinking about how much our mere presence means, not just in formal celebrations, but in a myriad of everyday human interactions. Sometimes just showing up means the world to someone in our circle.

Today I attended a high school graduation party for my hairdresser’s daughter. Because, you see, my hairdresser has walked with me through thirty years of life and almost as many hair styles. Hairdressers, like bartenders (I suppose), tend to serve as informal therapists. Confidences naturally spill out between the shampoo bowl and the blow dryer. So, of course, I’ll be celebrating this milestone with her family. Not many people know me better.

graduation 2024

Several weeks ago, my husband and I bought last-minute plane tickets to attend the funeral of a good friend’s mother. Our friend and his wife would never have expected us to make that trip, but the strength of their hugs told us how much it mattered. Given the need to interact with all their guests, our time for conversation was brief, but our quiet presence among the mourners was sufficient. I remember with deep gratitude the old friends who came to my parents’ funerals. Friends we hadn’t seen for many years walked through the funeral home door and stood with us in our grief. What a gift they were to us in that moment. Likewise, what an honor it was for us to be present for our lifelong friends.

My husband’s spiritual gift is listening. He seeks out the people who hang back, finding safety on the margins. He knows that many of those quiet souls would love to be engaged in conversation, if only someone cared enough to initiate one. He cares. I love that his shop door is always open to the older gentlemen who pop in regularly for a visit. Something about swapping stories from a shop stool and the ambiance of old motor oil and tools puts the world right for a spell.

BMW Isetta car

In Curtis Chang’s Good Faith podcast this week, he interviewed John Swinton about the theology of dementia care. (Side note: Among Swinton’s many roles and experiences, he formerly served as Queen Elizabeth’s chaplain! He also has the most delightful Scottish brogue.) Swinton made the point that even if the person with dementia does not remember the history you share with them, your presence in the moment matters immensely. They may be unmoored from their past self, but they still live meaningfully in the present. Your attention, your voice, your touch — these are the gifts you bring.

elderly woman's hands

One of the best gifts grandparents can offer their little loves is unrestrained time. When our grandkids were little, we would take them to Target and let them spend as much time as they wanted in the toy aisle. Parents don’t have time for that, but grandparents have nothing better to do!

When a recent Saturday found me with no plans, I invited my grandsons to go adventuring for the day. At ages nine and seven, they love being outdoors as much as I do and share my excitement for birdwatching. Before our hike, we stopped by Bass Pro to get properly equipped with binoculars, then hit their favorite trail. Other than seeing how many birds we could spot, I had no agenda and let them direct the day. After our hike, we ended up visiting an art gallery and a children’s museum! What a treat to indulge their curiosity and say “Yes” to whatever they wanted to do.

Two young boys in front of a painting of George Washington

Living well and loving well does not require greatness or talent or wealth. Sometimes the simple honor of your presence is a gift of inestimable value. I needed that reminder. Drop a comment and encourage us all by sharing an example of how you offer the gift of your presence.

ComeOnAileen

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2 Comments

  1. Such a great blog! Roger does have the spiritual gift of noticing and caring for the quiet ones. And I love how you gave your grandkids the gift of your time and presence. Showing up in the important times and showing up in the everyday = love!

    1. Thank you, Joyce! You are one who generously honors others with your presence. Much love to you!

      Aileen

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