I ask my friend in the Dillons parking lot, shoppers passing by with carts full of riches untold for most of the people in this world.
“Do you ever feel like you don’t have any words left, or maybe that there’s too much to say for words?”
Like you just need to be with the people you love, touch them and bury your face against them and breathe in their familiar scent and reassure yourself that they’re there. That you’re there.
That you’re safe and in the place you belong with the people you belong to.
You can physically touch the reality that while around you the world keens and lives shatter and people pass from this life to the next – as we all will someday – in this moment, the ones you love are still with you.
Another text comes and a young son has taken his own life and somewhere a mom weeps tears of pain and grief deeper than words can express.
It’s a strange silence that falls when feelings run too deep for words.
I’m a writer, a story-teller. My gift is expressing through words the images and memories and feelings others experience but cannot articulate.
Yet, even I have learned that at some junctures there are no words. And that’s okay. Some depths cannot be expressed within the confines of letters and sounds and syntax.
A year ago next month my beloved aunt tried to take her own life. And as I drove that long road to their house to be with their kids, flat wheat fields lying dormant rolling past, I prayed, “God, what do I say? What can I say?”
And He gently replied, “Sometimes words are not what’s needed. Sometimes words are not the answer. Sometimes what is most needed is you.”
My presence. My arms wrapped around a scared 15-year-old girl as we lay on the couch watching Dr. Who and trying to forget the unforgettable.
Words cannot heal that depth of hurt. Not really. Not yet. But my presence can begin the healing.
If you forget every other word I’ve written here today, remember this: People don’t need your words as much as they need you.
They need to touch you and know you’re real. That you’re still there, with them, living and breathing. They need to know that maybe they don’t have words to express what they’re feeling and maybe you don’t have words to take away their pain, but they have you.
Set your phone down. Put your computer away. Go into the other room and hug your son goodnight, because there’s another mom kind of like you who wants nothing more than to hug her son again and never will.
I still have no words some days and the clock keeps ticking past and new challenges rise up even as old ones are overcome. Last night I hugged my aunt and smiled back at the smile on her face that I thought I’d never see again, and I thank God that He is enough and more than enough to comfort and give hope. Sometimes it’s His words that encourage us, and sometimes it’s just knowing He’s there, that’s He’s faithful and powerful where we are weak, no matter what we might be facing.
Sometimes it’s His presence that matters most. Knowing that He’s there. And if God values the gift of His presence–after all, He was the one who, when He could have promised the universe, promised, “I will be with you”–isn’t the gift of our presence one of the most precious gifts we can give those who are hurting and feeling hopeless today?
In the rush and busyness of the new year, with all its to-do lists and running frantically to keep resolutions, falling behind and vowing to do better, take a moment to give those you love the gift of you.
Sometimes they don’t need a clean house or the perfect birthday card or some meme-worthy words of wisdom. Sometimes they just need you to be there and be present with them whatever they’re facing. Just like God is always present with you.