The Gift of Presence

Photography by Debra S. Walling

Photography by Debra S. Walling

Why Intimate Portraits… 

Mostly, silence filled the colorless and sunless room. A room void of any personal decor and from what is shared, not the most comfy compared to those of her home.  The medication tires and dulls the senses leaving my new acquaintance, in what appears to be a perpetual cycle of falling in and out of sleep.  Understandably so, her body continued to fail and she knew her time was nearing.

Yet, with every waking opportunity during my visits she attempted to share, no matter how tired or weak — stories of her life, getting old, her advise, her secrets to long life, marriage, children, the list went on. Happy events and those that were a pain in her side, she would say with a soft giggle and a smile.  On occasion there was a loss of connection to our conversation or with reality, her thoughts became broken.  Old age was compared to old trees.  A smile followed another giggle while squeezing my hand as she told what matters most is the gift of presence in this thing called old age.  During that particular conversation, as they do on occasion, ended abruptly because she slide back into sleep mode, almost uncontrollably.

Silence returned and with our hands still connected my thoughts are directed back to the conversation given. In a nutshell, she tells how grateful she is for the gift of presence. The gift it is, the joy received when one takes the time to be in the presence of, as she said, the old and gnarly.  How friendly, personal and warm the human touch can be. How given time to converse, no matter how silly the conversation, can uplift and comfort.  Eventually I released my hand from her hand.  With a slight hesitated to let go, she whimpered while repositioning herself. 

Sleeping or not, time remained for our visit.  Looking for something to entertain other then the aged, wrinkled and torn magazines stacked under tissues boxes and questionable items, not even a bible was to be had nor was there much to tidy up.  Other then the occasional interruption from the passing of shuffling feet and muffled conversations that passed by the hospital room, my only entertainment was from the sunlight filtering through the partially closed blinds - casting shadows on greeting cards and the hygiene items that filled the space on top of a bedside table.  It was there the eye noticed some napkins and what became my writing paper.  Biding my time till my new acquaintance awakened and in time she did though not as spirited.  That is how it is when one is ill, old and tired, no more stories for today and thanked me for the gift of my presence, nothing more, nothing less.