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The Theory of Presence

I see her sitting with all the others in the big room with the high ceiling. Her reclining chair is pushed against the wall, her feet on the footrest, with her knees pulled up against her chest. Her hair looks wild, the pink pyjamas cannot hide the fact that she is just skin and bone. She clutches a furry teddy bear in her hands, pressing it against her face. The skin on her hands appear translucent, her fingernails are not clean. She does not make eye contact when I come closer…

The room is spacious and light, tiled floor shiny. There is a table with building blocks and other toys, some plastic cups with half drunk tea. There are about ten people in the room, most of them in reclining chairs, either asleep or staring into space. A Carer is helping someone to eat a biscuit with her tea. I wonder if the tea is still warm. The only sound in the room is the soft murmuring of someone in the corner who is rocking back and forth, eyes closed, mouth open. Drool is running out of her mouth.

I slowly walk up to the lady with the teddy bear. She avoids my gaze and looks down at her teddy. I kneel down next to her chair and in a gentle voice say “Hi, my name is Rayne”. Slowly, very slowly, her eyes turn to meet mine. She stops fondling the teddy. I notice that every sinew in her body is tense, the muscles in her neck like the strings of a bow. Some of her teeth are missing. She sucks on the ear of the teddy, which is wet and soggy. I hold out my hand to her, palm up, softly gesturing for her to take my hand. Slowly she lets go of the teddy and puts her hand in mine. Bony, cold, damp, my hand dwarfs hers as she lays it softly in my palm. Her gaze changes immediately, there is recognition, trust, a connection.

Without words we communicate. I am sure she notices that my eyes are welling up, the enormous lump in my throat, my entire body reaching out to hers. Who is this person, now forgotten? Someone’s mother? Grandmother? Wife? In that moment our worlds collide, I feel and see her, connecting on the deepest Soul level, we recognise each other, even though we have never met. I know you… Being present.

The Theory of Presence

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