A Story of Presence

She knew soon after she let herself into the comfortable apartment that Birgitta was having a bad day.

Birgitta was usually upbeat and cheerful, but today her mood seemed dark.

Her usual chatter was absent and there was a depressed air in the home.

She started by making Birgitta some coffee and noticed that as she brought her coffee cup up to her lips, her hand was shaking so much that it was difficult for her to take a sip.

Birgitta sighed and put the cup down slowly, trying not to spill it.

She didn’t try to change Birgitta’s mood. And she didn’t try to lighten the heavy atmosphere.

She didn’t ignore the energy either, simply pretending it wasn’t there.

Instead, she took a few minutes from the tasks that she was assigned to do today (a bit of light cleaning, getting some meals ready, making sure the medicine was ready and easy for Birgitta to take) and sat down at the table.

She asked Birgitta a few questions about the night — How did she sleep? What did she watch on TV last night? She listened to her short answers and just held the space for whatever came.

Birgitta wasn’t one to complain.

More often than not, she kept up her upbeat Norwegian humor. She didn’t talk much about her declining health or the effects of Parkinson’s that were changing what she could and couldn’t do on almost a daily basis.

But on these days, when the darkness did come, she knew that the greatest gift she could give Birgitta was her presence.

The Gift of Presence

She knew that for Birgitta, having someone come into her home and meet her wherever she was felt like a true gift.

She wasn’t a daughter or a granddaughter who would do everything possible NOT to see what was happening.

Instead, she was an outsider who cared. Someone who would be where she was and listen, be compassionate and not judge.

Birgitta responded to her presence with warmth and trust and their bond was strong.

Looking back on her time with Birgitta, she sees the role of this type of Presence.

She knows how powerful it is. So much of our lives can be conducted on automatic pilot.

With Birgitta, she always took the time to be present — to be with her, listening and feeling and holding that space for wherever she was.

When she remembers to do this with people, there can be such an amazing connection. That is, if the other is present.

When she is present, though, there is a greater likelihood that they will be.

She takes the time to truly be with people. To look into their eyes and see who they are, sometimes looking past the masks they have on.

Presence allows her to do this.

Presence allows her to hold space for whatever they bring, without taking it on.

Presence allows her to feel real, authentic and connected.

She will always be grateful to Birgitta and the time she spent with her as it taught her the beautiful lesson of Presence.

Mood Lady images drawn by Debra Valentino.
A collection of Mood Lady Stories is available for purchase. A digital version is coming soon.