I witnessed the final hours and passing of my beloved mother on Wednesday, November 22, 2017. She had been diagnosed with colorectal cancer more than a year ago and her death, while anticipated, occurred more quickly than our family had imagined.
Most of us are not well-versed in the power of presence. From an early age, our ego feels the need to maintain control of its environment and many of us spend our days protecting the status quo. Death has a way of confronting us with just how limiting this view of the world can be.
It felt helpless and vulnerable to simply sit with mom by her bedside. I knew I couldn’t change the circumstances or influence the outcome. Her labored breathing was a constant reminder of the fragile nature of life. I searched in vain for signs mom might recognize my voice or touch.
Most leaders I know seem wired for activity and take pleasure in preparing, doing, or fixing. Few of us surrender to the quiet presence that is needed to think clearly and make wise choices. We are uncomfortable with who we are and where we need to experience healing.
Our presence in the moment is a gift to every person we encounter. It might be an employee, a customer, or a vendor who needs our full attention and empathy. Perhaps it is our soul that needs a break from the distractions competing for every second of our day.
Mom knew how to be present with others. She was generous with her time and frequently prayed for those she encountered throughout her day. Presence isn’t earned by one’s position or power. It’s being able to know what you need to know and seeing what you need to see.
Mom’s passing has changed my life forever but it has also taught me a valuable lesson about the sacredness of presence. I hope she felt my presence as the only gift I could offer in her final moments.
How might we, as leaders, avoid the distractions of our busy days and find time for the one thing that makes all other things real—being present for others?