He came into our bedroom and in the saddest voice, told me that he had a headache and his stomach hurt. Instantly, I was awake. I helped settle him on the couch, placed a bucket nearby, offered him some medicine to help his headache and told him to call to me if he needed anything.
Sure enough, less than an hour later, I hear him throwing up, calling for me in between moments of sickness. Living in a small bungalow and our bedroom steps away from the living room, I was at his side quickly. Once he was cleaned up and feeling a little more comfortable, I pulled his twin mattress out to the living room to be close by.
I lay there, listening to his breath and deciphering his noises. I would hear him move, and I'd open one eye to see whether he was hunched over the bucket or simply turning in his sleep. This continued until I had fallen back asleep, only to be woken to my youngest looking for me and my husband getting ready for work.
It was so hard, knowing that I couldn't really do anything to take away my son's discomfort. I could sit with him, offer him water, offer reassurance. But I couldn't do anything to take away his tummy ache or feeling of sickness. In that way, I felt so helpless.
How many times do we just want to "take it away", so someone else doesn't have to feel ill or sad or disappointed? How many of those times do we have to accept our limitations? How many of those times do we have to trust the process, even if the process is full of pain, heartache or loss?
It is not easy to sit by and watch someone experience difficulty or disappointment. But is that for us to "fix"? How many times have you shared that you simply want to be heard, rather than be offered a solution for your ailment or challenge? How do we simply "be" with those we love, even in the face of turmoil? And is there a time when we must step in to assist or provide a solution, and how do we know that time has come?
It's not easy to know what to do and when and how and for how long. It's not easy to be with others when we know they're hurting. But watching, listening, and being tuned in can help us decipher when we must "be" and when we may be helpful through "doing".