Below is a story I read a while ago that reminded me that my mission of mercy with my Mom this week is less about doing... and more about being.
It was 77-year-old Jungian analyst and author Marion Woodman who captured my imagination with her address on “Women, Power and Soul.”Her questions were clear: “How do you hold presence for others? How do you hold love for others, with no agenda? Who really saw you and heard you and didn’t ask for something in return?”Her message was compelling, and yet it paled in comparison to what I heard next.During a stay in India, Marion became very sick with dysentery, captive in her hotel room for weeks. Finally, desperate to escape the room, she gingerly made her way to the hotel foyer one afternoon to sit and write a letter to her husband. Sitting quite near the end of a long, empty couch, she began to write.Soon, though there were many other seats available, a very large brown woman came and squeezed between Marion and the end of the couch, so close to her that their arms were touching, so close that it made it difficult, even impossible, for Marion to write.Marion scooted away, angry at the invasion of her space. The woman scooted closer, pushing up against her. “Every time I moved, she moved, until,” as Marion described it, “we ended up at the other end of the couch.”Once she stopped moving away, Marion realized what a nice, big, warm arm the woman had, and so they sat, a thin bird of a pale white woman and a big brown woman, arm to arm. Not sharing a common language, they couldn’t speak, but sat in silence. Marion gave in to the broad warm arm, the presence of the other, and relaxed into her.The next day, she went again to the hotel foyer to write. And, again, the woman came and sat touching her, next to her, silently. And the third day. And the fourth day, as Marion’s health improved.This couch dance continued for a week. And one day, a man appeared as the two women finished their silent, warm-armed vigil.“You’re all right now. My wife won’t come back tomorrow,” he said to Marion, nodding toward her couch compatriot. “Your wife?,” she thought to herself, startled at his intimacy. “Why is she here in the first place?”She was unprepared for his quiet and simple answer.“I saw you were dying and I sent her to sit with you. I knew the warmth of her body would bring you back to life,” he said.It took a moment for the magnitude of his message and the enormity of what these two strangers had done for her to sink in.“She did save my life,” Marion said quietly in recounting the story. “That this woman would take the time to sit with me…and, most importantly, that I could receive it…
"That," said Marion Woodman, “is relatedness.”
That is what it means to hold presence for others.