The presents of presence

As the holiday season is upon us, so with it comes the stress and scramble to buy the perfect gifts for everyone close to us. Saying that, the more time I spend with my mother, who has Alzheimer’s, the more I realize that the greatest gift you can give is yourself – your time, your listening ear and your positive, patient presence.

I occasionally buy my mom gifts, like cookies or colouring books, but not very often, since she doesn’t understand what many things are for. Most of the time she doesn’t know exactly who I am either. In a way, it doesn’t matter. She’s always happy to see me because what she does understand is my smile, my laughter, my caring eyes and compassionate reassurance when I talk or play a game with her or just sit together. She picks up on my warmth, and in turn, she smiles and even chuckles sometimes, even if she doesn’t know why. But my presence makes her feel calm and secure and this is the best of what I can offer her.

I’ve repeated this act of sitting quietly with other friends and family members, and have seen the difference that it can make. We’re often so quick to rush in and want to fix things for a person and it can be very hard to stop ourselves from trying. Usually the person just wants to express themselves – to be heard, to be listened to and for their problems and concerns to be acknowledged and validated as real.

I’m not saying to never give a gift to someone – of course, as long as it is thoughtful and appropriate and given with your heart. But never underestimate the value of your presence to another person. The one thing that we can never get back is time, especially time with the person when they are gone. The pandemic has taught us the pain of being apart from those we love. When you can, give the gift of your presence to someone who is in need of your company. Because this can include all of us at some time in our lives and it is something that we can always cherish, no matter what the occasion or time of year.

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