Recently I had the privilege of knowing a precious woman who was 101 years old. This woman who had come from a musical family, was legally deaf and was also loosing her eye sight. By the time I met her, her family had stated that they were once able to write notes to her, but because of her loss of eyesight, they had also lost that ability to communicate with her.
Communication with this lady had become a real challenge. She still walked about with her walker because she could see shadows but she could no longer see to read, nor could she no longer hear to enjoy the voices of her loved ones or the music she once enjoyed.
On my initial visit, I tried to write to her and she just tossed the paper aside and got up with her walker and went to her room. On another visit, she patted me on the leg, before she got up to leave, as if to say, “poor thing, she keeps trying.”
One day I went to visit and she was in her bed taking a nap before her noon meal. When I touched her to let her know I was present, she started getting out of bed, almost as a reaction to a routine she was living. Sleep, up to eat and back to bed for a nap. I tried to communicate with her that it was not time to get up so I pulled a chair beside her bed and reached out for her hand.
This human contact, this mode of being present with another human being, appeared to be what she needed. She grabbed my hand and clutched it tight and rolled over and went back to sleep.
There we were 101 and 58 year old women with the ability to communicate by being present and offering human contact.
This story reminds me that often what others need is someone to be present. There was no fixing her loss of hearing and sight, there was no turning back the clock to a time of family and their love of music, but there was still present a desire to know she was not alone. A human in need of human contact. A human in need of knowing she was alive and present. A human in need of an Incarnational Presence.