The Gift of Presence

As the anniversary of Dale’s passing approached, the “lasts” grew vivid. Remembering the evening I last heard his voice was the most painful. His exuberant presence had always filled a room; his absence created a cavern.

A loved one described it well: “There’s such gone-ness.”

That sense of void dominated my early days of grieving.

I had thought that the many losses of the previous decade would prepare me for this final one. With each disease-related change, there was an aspect of Dale that I missed. I had learned to live with absence amid presence.

But there was no preparation for the final loss: Complete absence. Emptiness. “Gone-ness.”

There were times when the darkness and emptiness seemed total…when the absence felt too much to bear. I missed him—every version of him. I still do. However, now I see that throughout these months, I have been accompanied. Although the emptiness felt complete, it never was. There was presence amid absence.

That presence was Love expressed in countless ways, shining light in the darkness. Again and again, Love appeared: through warm hugs, thoughtful gifts, and caring messages. Each one made a difference, and even the memories of them now lift my heart. Love came through music shared among family and friends, through visits and trips with loved ones. Love appeared through nature’s beauties and daily wonders. The miraculous camellia in full bloom despite winter’s chill portrayed Love’s enduring presence. Even a feisty little wren couple nesting in a birdhouse that had been empty for years provided signs of life and hope to me.

Recently as I was drifting off to sleep, I experienced one more. It was as if I knew deeply—just for a few seconds—that Dale’s love was with me and a part of me. Neither a touch nor a whisper, but something as gentle as those, it was as if his warmth and his smile were wrapped within me in a deep, abiding presence.

For this precious gift and for all the expressions of Love’s presence and light amid the darkness of grief, I give unending thanks. Truly: “So faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” I Corinthians 13:13