Practicing Presence

Raymond Carver LF

What was your favorite meal, memory, or book from the summer?  I asked the Circle de Luz board as we settled into our seats with cups of coffee and plates of fruit at the start of our August 2nd retreat.

As we went around the circle and everyone shared, it occurred to me that this wouldn’t be the easiest question for me to answer.  A favorite from this summer?  A summer that took my mamacita from me on its very first day?  I’ll share a book, I thought.

And then it was my turn, and I didn’t share a book.  I told them the truth.  That my summer had been crap for a few different reasons— reasons rooted in the sudden loss of my mother but not only the sudden loss of my mother—, and yet, I found that my favorite summer memory was how people showed up for us.  How incredibly humbling and restorative and relieving it was that people show up just when you feel the loneliest, the most shattered, the most invisible.  How overwhelmed I was by my good fortune—my family’s good fortune- in life that people dropped what they were doing and showed up for us in some way.

And yet. 

Those two little words have been on my mind so much these days.

My mom died suddenly.  It sucks and is awful for us, and yet, if we really think about it, if we can get over ourselves, it was not awful for her.  She left us in the midst of a conversation with my dad, her partner of fifty-three years, and without suffering.

I would never have thought I had it in me to survive this, to have put one foot in front of the other in such tragedy, and yet, somehow I found a way to make it, to be of use to my family, to do right by my mamacita.

It is so hard to write right now, and yet, for me, the only way through, the only way forward for me is to find words.  To unpack my mind on paper.  To use the opportunity to lay down words to discover what it is I really think, how I really am doing, what I need and must do to move forward.

There is so much to do right now: the thank you notes and probate court paperwork and so much more, and yet, what I most want to do is just sit with my people and be.  I want to watch my little boy play basketball, watch the bunnies have a face-off in our backyard, watch the skunk skitter across the street.  I want to hear my dad tell the story of how he met my mom, dance it out with my boy after dinner, watch BF do flips off the diving board at the pool, support my friends navigate dating and divorce.  I want to show up.  I want to be still and present.

When we met with the priest to plan my mother’s funeral, he asked us to share stories about our mom.  As we were talking, I realized something that I had never articulated about our mamacita.

She was so incredibly present.  Whatever she was doing, she was wholly doing.  At family dinners, she ate her meals at the kids’ table because she did not want to miss a minute with her grandkids.  She could lose herself to hours of bird-watching.  She would leave for thirty minute walks in the neighborhood and return home hours later after talking to every single person who was outside when she walked by their house.  When the little girl across the street found out the news, she came over crying and with a card for Mr. Zita.

“Oh honey,” I told her.  “You need to know that my mama loved you so much and thought you were so special and so smart.”

“I know,” she nodded and sobbed.  “I know.”

I have always felt a tension between productivity and presence, and yet, with the loss of my mother it has all become so incredibly clear.  What good is productivity if you do it in a way that it keeps you from showing up for your people?  In the tension between the two, I am choosing to let presence win, to let showing up be the lesson this summer- between remembering my mamacita and appreciating all those who were with us in our darkness in some way– has taught me.

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2 responses to “Practicing Presence”

  1. Andi

    Thank you for sharing this. You were both so lucky to have obviously loved each other so deeply. I’m sorry for your loss.

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