Don’t just do something, sit there!

I hurt my back a while ago and one of the things I got for the pain was a prescription for Fentanyl. Before I was scheduled of back surgery, I tried to get off of my pain meds and found out that I was physically dependent on them. Every time I tried to stop using them I went through withdrawals. Around midnight on one of those occasions, I was pretty well freaking out.  I really didn’t know what else to do or who else to call so I called my dad. I was crying and was sure I was going crazy. I was embarrassed that at 45 years old I had to call my dad. My dad got in his car and drove over.

When he got over to the house, he just sat with me. I’m not sure if I remember this correctly, but I think he had kind of a pained look on his face. If you are a parent you’ve probably had that same look a time or two. Your kids are going through something horrible and you are unable to take the pain or sorrow away. That kind of stuff makes your face contort and get all weird looking. One of my cousins described the look as being one that said, “I would take all of your pain away if I could. But I can’t. ” Anyway, he had that look.

There my dad sat at 12:30 in the morning waiting for me to level out and make sure I was going to be okay. Over the next weeks he took me to see a doctor that would wean me off of the painkillers and get me back into reality. Through all of that and and after my surgery, my dad was always available for me. He would listen to me ramble about how my life was over and that I still thought I was going crazy. He never said much, but I knew he was listening and that he cared.

I think my dad felt really powerless. In reality, he helped me make it through some horribly dark and scary times.

My Uncle Dick and Zoe the Wonder Dog. She was a good friend to him in his last months.

A couple of years ago my uncle was dying. My dad and I would visit. When I visited, I would take my dog.

My uncle loved my dog. In fact, the only reason my uncle would talk to me is because of my dog. Here’s proof: One day I stopped in on my way back from a meeting and did not have my dog with me. He was sitting in his chair when I came in. After we exchanged our short greetings he asked where Zoe was. I told him she wasn’t with me. What did he do? He asked me to get his headphones and then started to listen to an audio book. I didn’t forget to bring my dog again.

Anyway, on one occasion I helped my uncle eat his meal. A couple of times I sat with him when he cried. Life was so heavy for him by now. His wife of 62 years had died, he had had a stroke, and he was in a nursing home unable to take care of himself any more. He lost his wife, his health, and his independence in a year or two. On more than one occasion I had a pained look on my face as I wished I could do something more to help him. I was powerless to change anything. All I could do was sit next to him and reassuringly rub his shoulder.

Sitting with someone never feels like it is enough. I always feel like there must be something I should do or say that will fix the situation. It is frustrating to feel so powerless.

Thankfully, I’ve learned is that there is something powerful about just being there in the moment with someone. It is good medicine. Sitting with someone and sharing in their tears, laughter, fears, doubts, worries, or frustrations is good for their soul. It is good for our soul, too.

It is a powerful thing simply being with someone in those difficult times. It is a physical reminder of a spiritual reality: God will never leave us or forsake us.

Like I said, there were some really dark times when I was getting rid of the drugs from my system. There were even times when I wondered where God was in all of it.

And in the darkest of times my dad sat silently by my side making God’s presence known to me.

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4 thoughts on “Don’t just do something, sit there!

  1. Vicki Navarre

    David – Thank you for sharing your beautiful story. I too have experienced sitting at the bedside of someone who was dying, two times to many, or not. Sometimes there is conversation, sometimes reassuring touches but mostly just being. God’s presence is undeniable and so incredibly comforting. I would not trade these final days with my loved ones for anything and I thank God for allowing me to participate in the final stages of life on this earth and entry into life everlasting.

  2. Kim Nebel

    my brother does this naturally , that’s probably why sick people so often request his presence, an extremely ill friend recently stated to my sister, “I want your brother to be my brother ” yet remarkably he’s never receited “the sinners’ prayer” nor professes Christianity……………go figure……..

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