Have you ever met someone who knows the exact right things to say at the right time? I have a friend like that. I've been with him in hundreds of situations and he is brilliant and caring with his words. I've watched him walk into a funeral and say exactly the right thing to the grieving family; I've seen him talk to a waitress who pours her heart out about some family crisis and he comforts her with genuine love and care; I've watched him speak words of joy to a brand new mother and she leaves feeling valued.
Whatever gift that is--I don't have it. I rarely know the right thing to say. The comforting verse or loving words don't come to my mind until I'm walking away. Few people leave my presence feeling all warm and cozy inside. If they do, it's has more to do with the fireplace we are standing by than anything I said.
About the only thing I know how to do is to be there. To be present. To help where I can and communicate love by my presence.
At least 1000 times each day I think about my sister, Dena, and her husband Patrick. They are adjusting to a new reality of having less time together than they thought. Patrick was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) three months ago. In the prime of his life, already it is wreaking havoc on his muscles, speech, balance and more. There is no treatment and no cure.
Many times I want to call or write a text with some profound words of wisdom that will help Patrick or Dena make it through the day. I just don't have the right words. Sometimes I want to call Paige or Parker (their teen children, my niece and nephew) and say something that will help them through the sucky reality that no child should have to think about--but I don't know what I'd say.
All I know how to do is be present. So every few weeks I drive four hours to be with them for a day or two. We don't sit around and talk about death or disease--we just hang out, eat meals, and do life together. I try to jump in and help where I can, but mostly it's just being there.
Many years ago when I was in my first year as a pastor, I was trying to decide whether to go to a funeral viewing or not. I had something important to do, I'm sure, and wasn't sure the family even knew me. Mark Beeson looked at me and said, "You can never go wrong by being there for someone."
It's a principle I've long remembered.