Just Being There
The Thin and Fragile Line Between Life and Death
A Boy, a Homicide, and a Forensic Nurse
Just Being There:
A Digital Story by Paul Thomas Clemens
Published on Apr 2, 2012
Available on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79GM-3y8Uho
A boy, a homicide, and a forensic nurse. From a CDS Nurstory workshop with the International Association of Forensic Nurses. With appreciation to Nurstory and the Center for Digital Storytelling.
"There is a thin and fragile line between life and death. When people violently step across this line, it changes things forever. Sometimes grownups make bad decisions. These decisions may result in life-changing losses for children."
Paul Thomas Clements
Adults, too, suffer from life-changing losses. When people step across the thin and fragile line between life and death; the consequences are suffered by the victims and also by those who inflict the violence.
"I Sit, and I Listen."
I had a friend -- the president of the college where I teach -- who would visit the parents of students who died suddenly and tragically. He was not trained to be a counselor and would often feel inadequate to the task. He would often leave the house of the parents feeling that, in trying to be consoling, he had somehow said the wrong thing.
A friend of his, also a friend of mine, comforted him by saying "Just in being there, you are saying the right thing.'
This is something we all understand. In times of trial and trauma, our need is for the presence of another person who takes the time to be with us, to listen to us. They do not need to have answers. They do not even need to say anything. They just need to listen. Their listening has a healing effect in its own right, even if the wound we have suffered, physical or psychological, cannot be changed.
The philosopher Whitehead proposes that there is a Deep Listening at the very heart of the universe. It is not distant and faraway. It is not like a clockmaker. It is more like a lover of a friend. Like someone who is always holding our hand even if we do not know it.
The Deep Listening is powerful but not all-powerful. So often needs our ears, our hearts, to be effective in human life. In our better moments we are incarnations of the Listening.
"It's amazing to me that children are able to find their way in the shadow of their loss. And sometimes just being there allows them to do just that."
Every person's way is slightly different because every person's life is different. Every person's way is evolving, too. Our footsteps help create the path.
But we do not have to create our paths alone. When we are listened to, we gain sustenance for the path. And when we listen to they they gain sustenance, too,.
A person's path cannot be contained in a prescription. It emerges over time, like a gift, an act of grace, from the realm of surprise. There is no need to pin down the surprise with too many names. It cannot be boxed in.
It is enough to call it the Listening.