Where Are You? Where Am I?

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Where are you—Oh, where are you when I stop by? Curled in your bed or slouched in your chair—so tiny and fragile, I’m afraid you might break.  Mouth often open and yet you don’t speak—or chatter, not stopping, but what does it mean?  Your eyes, they gaze widely but seem only to see those people and objects not obvious to me.  You pick and you pull at a myriad of things—even pinch my arm hard—I’m wondering why.  I see you.  I know you are there—but where are you really when I stop by?

I thought I could change things—who told me to try? I have to do something; isn’t that why I stop by?  What shall I say?  What shall I do?  Take over—make things better—surely that’s what I must try.  It comes to me slowly—my ideas are not right.  I can’t really change things even though I might try.  I know in my heart this is how it’s to be and yet it is hurtful, so very hurtful to see.  I’ve found you,  I think, but lost my own way.  Where am I in all this?  I really can’t say.

Slowly then, I’m beginning to see the “you” who has been there and  the “who” I should be.  The past is often cloudy, the future unclear but of this I am certain—we have our moments together when I stop by.  I am here for the you who has always been waiting, just not easy to see, who speaks to me now and wants me to be—a friend, a companion on these travels so hard.  No longer do I wonder what it is I should do.  I know now—just be here, just be here with you.  Where are you?  Where am I?

Together on our journey—together.


“—for the healing of suffering is compassion, not expertise”

Kitchen Table Wisdom
Rachel Naomi Remen


Emilie Gillanders is a Member of IVC’s National Board of Directors and an Ignatian Volunteer in Northern Virginia.  She wrote this piece in August 2013 as part of an end of year project for a class she took called “Companioning the Dying”.  Emilie says it is more relevant for her hospice work, which is not yet her official IVC placement, but still very relevant  to her IVC work at the Fairfax County Adult Day Health Care Center as many of the participants suffer from dementia and in their later stages become part of the hospice program.  Emilie graduated from Georgetown School of Nursing and has always been drawn to caring for the elderly.  Through her IVC and Hospice work, she has discovered that one of the most precious gifts we have to give is our attention.  

10 Responses to “Where Are You? Where Am I?”

  1. Camille Devaney

    Amazing reflection Emilie. Those of us ministering in nursing homes and/or to elderly parents can relate. IVC has taught me that ministry of presence is important and sometimes the silly conversations that make little to no sense, are God’s gift to us saying, “thanks for stopping by.”
    Our prayer, or at least mine, has many “whys” these days but also many experiences of Love, loving. Presence both hurts and heals them and us. Keep going and be present. Walking together, your term, makes the road a tad shorter and smoother.

  2. Helen Taney

    Yes, it is a journey together, often painful but peaceful, too. Beautiful reflections, Emilie. What a gift-just to be present there.

    • Pat Durkin

      Your reflection poem speaks so beautifully about the mystery and wonder of the challenging ministry that has chosen you. Emilie, you are a gift.

  3. Jeanie sweeney

    I’m reminded of my own sister and me as she seem to disappear. Thank you for the spaces in your wondering, dear Emilie. And by the way, wouldn’t Rachel Ramen’s kitchen Table Wisom that you quote make a good book for IVC — Hope and healing.

  4. Mary Lou Miller

    Emilie, I so needed to be reminded of the value of simple presence. Thank you. “when the student is ready the teacher appears.”

  5. Louise M Sandberg

    Yes, I need to loose the I and become a we, myself, the person I am sharing the moment with, and God.

  6. marysue flanagan

    Your ruminations, Emily, are powerful and affecting.
    How blest are those with whom you are a comforting presence in their
    last days.

  7. Pam Lucey

    Dearest Emilie,
    My dear hubbie’s best friend died last evening. His wife is a close friend of both of us as well. We got the call just as we returned from a week away when he was constantly in our thoughts and prayers. We were together for several days as he struggled to breathe in ICU and then we had to leave. I am so grateful for the together time and to understand it in its essence in your beautiful words. Thank you!


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