We are called at certain moments to comfort people who are enduring some trauma. Many of us don’t know how to react in such situations, but others do. In the first place, they just show up. They provide a ministry of presence. Next, they don’t compare. The sensitive person understands that each person’s ordeal is unique and should not be compared to anyone else’s. Next, they do the practical things–making lunch, dusting the room, washing the towels. Finally, they don’t try to minimize what is going on. They don’t attempt to reassure with false, saccharine sentiments. They don’t say that the pain is all for the best. They don’t search for silver linings. They do what wise souls do in the presence of tragedy and trauma. They practice a passive activism. They don’t bustle about trying to solve something that cannot be solved. The sensitive person grants the sufferer the dignity of her own process. She lets the sufferer define the meaning of what is going on. She just sits simply through the nights of pain and darkness, being practical, human, simple, and direct.
My eyes blinked like a camera shutter clicking through the frames of my life, except the images were mismatched and haphazard: a ragged-looking doll with a rose-colored dress; crocheted white baby mittens, slightly unraveled; a row of tulips, vibrant red; Rex’s smile; a rusty weather vane whirling in the wind.
My eyelids fluttered, fighting to remain open, but when they closed, the welcoming image that waited beckoned me to stay, promising to give me the comfort, the peace I longed for.
I could see them, seemingly endless rows of big, bushy green trees with waxy leaves and showy flowers the size of saucers. Pinks, reds- bursting into bloom, as if they’d been painted by the Queen of Hearts.
― Sarah Jio, The Last Camellia
What is it about the Heavens that draws us to look up? For generations, centuries, (millennia?) it seems we are drawn to look up for answers, comfort in times of despair, with pleas for help, when we are in need of grace, and to give thanks.
What seems to me to be happening is that those people who were once colonized by the language are now rapidly remaking it, domesticating it, becoming more and more relaxed about the way they use it — assisted by the English language’s enormous flexibility and size, they are carving out large territories for themselves within its frontiers.
Some moments in a life, and they needn’t be very long or seem very important, can make up for so much in that life; can redeem, justify, that pain, that bewilderment, with which one lives, and invest one with the courage not only to endure it, but to profit from it; some moments teach one the price of human connection: if one can live with one’s own pain, then one respects the pain of others, and so, briefly, but transcendentally, we can release each other from pain.
Most attribute the domain of night to evil because they can’t see. People fear the shadows of the night because shadows represent the unknown, and the unknown is frightening. They assume evil lurks behind every shadow, in every corner not illuminated. But their fear of the unknown is often what really terrifies them. They find comfort seeing in the daylight for that reason, but the irony is they are often more blinded by their comfort than by the shadow of night. It’s a pity. If they could overcome their fear of the unknown they might realize that the unknown is not evil, it is simply an opportunity waiting to be explored. The night is no more a domain of evil than the daylight, both were created good, both have evil lurking in them. When you can overcome your fear, the night becomes a domain of beauty interlaced with danger, and that is exciting!
hold still. stay there. tease back the layers. you are in the space between your comfort zone and infinity. you want to hide. not be seen. not be open. not be vulnerable. but you have to. there are two ways to do this – soft and gentle or fast and hard. both will get you to the other side, if you let them.
As I go off into the big black abyss of my future, I have to admit that I am terrified and also a bit insecure in my decisions. But, I also realize that anyone who has ever gone off into uncharted waters must have felt similar to the way I feel now, which gives me a small ounce of comfort. I don’t know how to do what I am doing, I have no way of knowing if this is the right way or not. But I guess I’ll never know until I get there. So, this is me, being a pioneer.
He was really trying to be my friend, without all the emotional baggage we both carried – mine still with me, but carefully folded in vacuum bags so they’d occupy as little room as possible and his, hanging on his shoulders like lead armor, making him slouch sometimes. And yet, as pinned down as he was, he was the one comforting me, supporting not only his weight but mine, too. It wasn’t fair.