Editor’s note: Reflecting on the passing of a loved one, Interim Executive Director Meghan Meros shares how she came to a deeper appreciation that being present with another person is a sacred opportunity to encounter, share, and give love.
Once, I was with someone when they died, but I did not have the privilege of fully and solely “being there.” Instead, I was calling 911, following instructions to start CPR, and stepping back after the paramedics arrived. I was doing all the thing I was supposed to do—indeed, needed to do in good conscience—but that meant several other important things were left undone. I wish now that I had been able to hold the man’s hand, assure him of my love, and wipe his brow. These were the things I could not do at the time. I was there—and yet, I felt like I wasn’t.
Bound by human condition, I did not have the capacity to be both first responder and bedside minister. I could draw on no special power to both pray that the man live, and also surrender peacefully to the possibility that he might not. My presence at his quick passing did not constitute a ministry of presence in which one sets busyness aside to be with another person. As the leader of an organization that values this particular kind of ministry, the thought gives me pause. I ask myself, “Should I have done something differently? Should I have stopped my efforts to save a life and quietly knelt by the man’s side to pray?” My heart’s immediate response is, “No.” There is, truly, a time to be still and a time to act. No matter which comes first, though, there is usually an opportunity to follow up with the other, and this was true even in the situation in which I found myself.
Eventually, after what seemed like hours but really was only one, I got my chance to “be there” with my father, the man who died. In a curtained-off room at the hospital where he was taken, I held my father’s hand, touched his beard, and lifted his eyelids to have one, last look into his brown eyes. I also prayed—and while I did not find peace—I encountered the love I had for my father, a love that could have prompted me to speak into then-deaf ears: “To be with you, even in death, is sacred; no one like you will walk the Earth again.”
This love that I held for my father and continue to hold for others in my life is, for me, the greatest proof that each individual is precious and anointed, by virtue of their existence, to contribute something to the human family. Indeed, if people were dispensable and copies of one another, we would not feel pain at the loss of those we love. Jesus’ disciples, as we see in the Bible, knew this too about the One whom they chose to follow.
While the disciples may not have had the privilege of being fully present in the in-between time that is Holy Saturday due to grief and fear of persecution, we do. We can be there through our prayer and remembrance of the death that would become our salvation. No need for us to call 911, give someone a drink, or carry the cross. The time for that has passed. Instead, let us turn to Jesus, encounter love, and embrace the ache that comes with saying, “To be with you is sacred; no one like you will walk the Earth again.”
Reflection question: How can you practice more of a balance between action and presence in your own life to encounter, receive, and give love to those around you?