This morning, I was startled into a rush of memories.
Listening to my usual commuting companion, National Public Radio, a photographer was speaking about her recently published memoir entitled, “Hold Still”.
When she spoke the words of her book title, as if conditioned by some Pavlovian prompt, all else faded when the syllables whispered into the depths of my mind and nudged open the dusty files hidden there…
“Hold still.” It was my mother’s patient instruction to me. I was about 8 years old, fidgeting, restless, standing on a chair; she plucked a straight pin from the felt pin-cushion made in the likeness of a tomato and carefully pushed the sharp point into the fabric folded up to form a hem at the level of my knees in the dress she was fashioning for me.
“Hold still.” My voice was determined speaking to twelve-year-old Kirstyn at the bus stop, in a barely audible, teeth-clenched growl, commanding her to stay put while I marched forward, positioning myself between her and the crowd in fierce maternal protective mode to confront the tween-aged, mean-girl bully who terrorized her on the school bus.
“Hold still.” The sensible words from Dad’s nurse, as she cautiously and ever -so-slowly peeled the medical tape away from his weary, needle- bruised arm to remove the IV. It was ‘going home day’, and we were all humbled in gratitude for her kindness, her gracious and authentic care for my Dad while he had received treatment in hospital, the small first steps toward restored health.
“Hold still.” A silent reprimand to myself upon arrival on campus with a carload of Kalyn’s belongings for her final year away at college. In her haste and excitement, she threw open the car door and dashed across the residence hall parking lot to greet her friend in a gleeful, welcoming hug, voices raised in excited joy to see one another after the long summer break. In that oh-so-sweet but heart-wrenching moment, this mother observed that her girl, now young woman, had built a life which was her very own, full and separate from our family.
“Hold still.” It was the presence of God in a holy place….I stood very close to Steve, side by side, our shoulders touching in the candlelit sanctuary. It was Christmas Eve and we had run away from home…neither of us could face the quiet house that year…the first one with both our children holidaying far away from us…the empty nest on Christmas morning was too much to bear. We fled to our land of enchantment and attended the worship service in a church which was our extended family twenty years ago. We prepared ourselves, expected that it would be much changed; but there at the door, some familiar faces! They remembered us too with smiles and warmth in united nostalgia of old times spent as friends and acquaintances. And so we sang the carols known to us since childhood, heard the nativity story read from scripture and shared communion. The choir began the traditional benediction of ‘Silent Night’…its strains soothing our aching hearts. I leaned into Steve, turning my face up to his. Our gazes met, brimming tears sparkled in the glow of the candlelight threatening to spill. All our years together echoed through us like a blessed sigh, and peace embraced us. We stood as one, we two broken souls, hands clasped together, holding, still.
Now, I look through the plate glass window dotted with clinging raindrops, and take in a deep breath sensing reassurance from the steadfast cottonwood. A deluge of rain in the past week has brought the landscape into a brilliant, lush, verdant green. The calm after the storm has settled, and all is tranquil, saturated, not a leaf in motion. The quiet is almost physical.
Stillness is sacred space. Hold fast to it.