There is a hospice patient I visit regularly who says this to me as I end my visit sharing that I will be back the following week. I have come to hear so much in these four little words. It begins with the sense that he desires to escape his terminal circumstance. It moves on to his sense of stagnation – he will be just as I left him when I return. And of course, that isn’t entirely true as he could diminish further prior to my return. Then I feel the anger in his words – ‘Where the heck do you think I will be next week?’; the envy – ‘Do you have any idea how fortunate you are- how much I want to walk out of here with you?’ Finally, it moves to a deeply wistful sense that he awaits my return because there is little else to look toward; and the slightly self-protective fear that I might not return. Each time he says this to me, I resonate with his deep sense of powerlessness. Each time I hear these four words I long to share with him how clearly I see him and how much I admire his courage as he struggles to reconcile himself to what is happening.
The reality is that I am powerless. I cannot really do anything other than humbly offer my companionship. I know that and so I choose to be present to him. I choose to give witness to his life, to his struggle to his existence – even to his diminishment. I choose to hope that a caring presence willing to companion him in this moment is part of the beauty of being fully alive. I choose to remember in him, with him and through him that we are never more fully alive then when we hold each other wholly/holy in the fullness of our humanity.
And so, in my humble effort to let him know that he is seen, to reassure him that he is not alone, to give witness to his pain and suffering, his humanity – I accept his refrain and I offer it back to him with the spirit of hope, companionship and love ~ I will be here.