My 16th year was incredibly hard. I was trying to move past terrible abuse. I had a guy friend that I was close to that year. One night he climbed in my bedroom window and slept on my floor. I have no idea why he came. He was just…there. I wasn’t alone. I would wake up like a scared little kid and reach down and there he would be. I don’t know what was going on in his life at the time but I imagine I was there for him too. I’d wake up and say, ” Are you still here” and he would reply, “I’m here. ” That has stuck with me my entire life. That sweet boy laying on my floor all night gave me this primitive feeling of security and I’m not sure I can put into words the gratitude I have towards him. The man who abused me was still right across the lake. My friend took the fear away.
It wasn’t until I met my husband that I felt that feeling of safety again. Ten years after we were married I had to get a muscle biopsy. The day I got the biopsy, I got home and was exhausted. I had been awake all night the night before because I was scared of the procedure. The biopsy was to be done under no anesthesia. I didnt realize I would be watching the incision, and looking into my open leg. No numbing medication was used on my muscle and I felt them cut it out of me. It was barbaric and horrifying. When I got home I just wanted to sleep. I didn’t want to sleep alone but I was worried my husband may bump my leg if he were next to me. He did not want me to be alone. He grabbed my daughter’s trundle bed mattress and threw it on the floor and layed next to my bed. I was able to sleep. He said, ” I’ll be right here if you need me.” I felt safe. I knew he was there. I don’t think there are many men in this world that would have done that. I cherish him.
It’s ironic that I realized the power of these words after my dog Jessy was diagnosed with cancer 5 months ago. He was given 3 days to live based on his symptoms. He had a tumor that was thought to block his intestines in a matter of days. He had lung cancer and a mass in his abdomen. Every night since, I have layed on the bench in the kitchen for hours at night with his bed right next to me on the floor. The picture where he is laying on the quilt, is him looking up at me on the bench.
Something he started doing right after his diagnosis was to check that I was still there. He would fall asleep and a few minutes later lift his head to see me. Then I got in the habit of saying, “It’s Okay, I’m here.” I can’t even count the amount of times he has lifted his head to look for me to hear the same words. As soon as I say, “I’m here,” he puts his head back down and goes back to sleep. I’m up on the bench, he’s on the floor next to me, but he knows I’m there.
Such simple words, “I’m here.” I’ve rushed to the bed of a person in hospice in the middle of the night just to hold her hand and tell her those same words. My best friend Laura, before she died of cancer, actually as she was fighting cancer, drove to my house, sat on my couch, and said the same words to me.
I didn’t realize the power that those words symbolized until I heard myself say them to my dog! He is laying right next to me as I type this. Tonight, as I said it, I remembered all the times in my life that someone has said or shown that, “It will be okay. I am here.” SO many beautiful people have crossed my path just when I needed them. It’s funny how saying something to my dog triggered so many positive memories.
I know that many reading this have fought and conquered many things in their lives. They have overcome tragedy, abuse, loss, and hurt. Many have gone through it alone. I have gone through many things alone too. I have had many moments where I have felt lonely and forgotten. I pray that you each had at one point someone hold your hand through the worst of it. I’ve had some miraculous moments where the right person was there at just the right time. I am thankful for those moments.
To that sweet 16 year old boy who showed what being “here” meant, thank you. I couldn’t have made it through that year without you. To the teacher that same year who pulled me out of class to say, “I’m here. ” I thank you! I wouldn’t be here, and married with a daughter, had you not taken the time to notice the pain in my eyes.
I sit here looking at the pictures of Jessy and wishing life could always be so simple. I may be saying the words to him but he has been there for me for the last 13 years. He’s alerted me of a seizures, opened the oven door for me since it hurts my arms, and stayed by my side. Dogs do it by nature. They are devoted. He knows no other way than to be here for me. For people it is not always so easy. So to those people who choose to be present, who choose to be a light in the darkness, I thank you. You are a gift.