In this phase of my life, I find myself a space holder.
It’s a sacred job, one many don’t really think about much.
Until you require a space holder. Or someone you love does. Holding space for someone you love means that you are solid and impermeable, even as they get buffeted by the winds of change.
It doesn’t involve lots of yapping or fussing. Instead, you are a quiet presence. Many times, a patient presence in the face of their storm of emotion. And always, a loving and loyal presence. They need to know you’re not going anywhere.
When my mother was dying in hospice, she needed a space holder. Someone on this side of the fine line that separates us humans from the great ethereal shroud she approached but couldn’t see the other side of yet. Someone who would not hold her here but was firmly here. Affirming that she existed, here or there. Someone solid. Someone quiet. Someone who would not fuss but would sit with love. Hold good intentions for her with love. Let her go with love.
During the last year of my father’s life, he needed a space holder. A compass to give some rhythm to his days and nights. A caretaker. Someone who would hold his space in the world, even as he began to retreat from it. Someone to affirm his importance in a part of the world where the elderly are treated as anything but that. My sister did this with grace, day after day.
During my divorce and the aftermath, I found myself holding space for my children. I was an anchor. They were the boats. And I needed to give them as much tethered space as they required, while remaining rock steady. Holding space for them as individuals and us as a family. Letting them know, quietly, that despite the incredible upheaval in our lives, life continued. And some things would never, ever change—like my love for them. My drive to keep us afloat.
As I drove my son to his graduation dance this evening, I realized that this milestone, this leaving of middle school and childish things, requires me to again hold space for someone I love.
As I dropped him off, he had to (as usual) run back to the car twice to get things he’d forgotten. A borrowed suit jacket that needed to be returned to its owner. A sleeping bag for the sleepover that followed.
I watched him take the stairs up to the second floor two at a time. He ran, gleefully, familiarly, toward a night of dancing, pizza and games. With friends he has had now since fourth grade. His school, with just 32 children per grade, is one of close-knit relationships. And wonderful kids. Truly wonderful. I was happy he was getting the chance to make these memories.
And yet. Oh, and yet. I am left holding space. Occupying the space between his childhood and his manhood. Along with his gleeful bound up the stairs comes a still childlike love of Nerf wars and s’mores. But, encroaching more and more are hairy armpits, amped-up lacrosse practices where he is expected to man up and train like one, and grades that colleges will ponder for better or for worse.
I hold the middle space for him, allowing him to be childlike when necessary but coaxing a maturity I see he will need sooner than he knows.
It was the childlike bounding, the entering of a school so familiar and welcoming that he treats it as a home, the friendly shout from a classmate, the smile from a teacher, that did me in.
After he left the car and I could no longer see him, the tears flowed.
Holding space means you can’t quite go forward. But you know you can’t go back either. You must stay in the ever-changing present.
It is a tough juxtaposition, knowing the current rhythm and comfort of your days is soon to be disrupted by a seismic shift. Knowing that you’ll look back on this time fondly. Knowing that while the days can be very long, the years go by quickly.
I see what he can’t yet see. And I’m willing to hold space for him so he doesn’t have to see it quite yet. I see how much he’ll miss what he’s leaving behind. And how much he has in front of him, good and bad. No matter how much, as a mother, I hope for the former, I know life mixes the two in a cocktail of its own choosing.
So I hold the space in between, allowing him to flit back and forth between the past and the future. Space holders make the present a warm, loving place to be. It’s a job I’m getting more used to doing. To be honest, I’m usually a space filler. I’m not all that quiet, not all that unassuming, not all that vanilla. And yet, space holders are usually filled with a quiet strength.
Here’s to all of you who are holding sacred space for someone you love right now. Whether they’re soon to depart this world, a phase of life or just embarking on a fantastic journey, your very quiet role means the world.
Or so I’ve been told. By a couple of very wonderful souls who are no longer here.
I’ll take their word for it.
32 Comments Add yours
Very beautifully written Kristine, from the love that is you within. That is what a ‘holder’ is ❤ 😀
Amen and hallelujah to the love within!
This is such a thoughtful post Kay, thank you. I’ve had many space holders in my life and know the shelter of that kind of space helps us through and lifts us up. We all need that, especially during times of crisis or change. Everyone you’ve touched that way is better for having had you there.
Beautiful, beautiful post Kay!
It never occurred to me until I read this how often I hold space for my kids. I very much want them to not have worry about anything other than being kids and I’m often very good at giving them the space to do just that. I also realized after reading this how often I rush them through what their doing because it’s inconvenient or goes against what we have scheduled. I guess motherhood requires a mix of both but I’m definitely going to be more mindful of giving them a neutral place to just be and to let them work through their own conflicts. Beautiful post, Kay. It’s going to stay with me for a long time.
Man. I’ve got chills. You hit home for me on this. And I’ve never quite looked at it this way.
This is wow. Just a whole lot of wow.
I’m holding space right now for my 16 year old and never realized it. You can certainly get the thoughts flowing.
Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Now I very clearly can articulate what it is to hold space for someone. I’ve only been introduced to this expression in the past few years, and even though I pretty well understood what it was, I couldn’t exactly put it into words. Now I see that it is to remain firmly grounded and in the present moment while another is flitting about, changing, morphing, being a tornado, whatever they are needing to do, holding that space of compassion and love and divine energy for them.
Lovely, Kay, absolutely lovely.
So beautiful. This reminds me of Katrina Kennison’s writing 🙂
“So I hold the space in between, allowing him to flit back and forth between the past and the future. Space holders make the present a warm, loving place to be. It’s a job I’m getting more used to doing. To be honest, I’m usually a space filler. I’m not all that quiet, not all that unassuming, not all that vanilla. And yet, space holders are usually filled with a quiet strength.”
May you always find the power and necessary tranquility to keep this precious gift.
Just beautiful. I felt your tears as you sat in the car, and teared up a little myself. I can so relate to this. I remember standing in the card section at Walmart trying to find just the right sentiment for my son at his high school graduation. I started blubbering like an idiot right there in the aisle, remembering the little man who used to spoon with me on the couch and watch tv, his blonde curls tickling my nose. They grow up too fast.
I will be you in the auditorium seats instead of Walgreens:).
I am proud to have been a space holder for my seventeen year old since I left his dad sixteen years ago. I’m pretty sure I always will be….and that’s okay.
He’s lucky to have you. If he doesn’t know it now, he will.
I have never thought about this concept….but I see that you are absolutely right about it. Thanks for making me aware of something that I have just taken for granted, both in myself and in others. Wonderful piece.
“Holding sacred space.” Thank you for planting increased awareness of that special life station in my soul, Kay. You have honored it well, both directions. Bravo.
What a beautiful post, and a wonderful tribute to those supporting and caring for others.
What a lovely spirit you possess.
Kay, I’ve been following you for pretty much as long as I have been blogging. I’ve never told you how much I love your writing. This post is a perfect example of why I get notified by email every time you post. Thank you, for you.
I don’t think you could have said anything nicer than what you did. Thanks very much. Those words mean a lot . . .
Yes, I am a space holder, too. For my beloved who continues to fight for his daughter in his life, not yet untethered from her mother, not yet able to embrace a solid future. I hold space for his fears, doubts, outrage and worry. I hold this space and lead him back to the present, calm space we live in together. He has said as much to me. What an important role we holders have. Thank you for this.
I am glad he recognizes how valuable you are to him. Makes all the difference in the world . . .
A lovely concept Kay, it makes me feel tranquil just thinking about it.
Thank so much for this beautiful post! As a sacred space holder for many I think, I really enjoyed this! Much love, Justine
Beautiful and thoughtful, Kay. Thank you.
This is a time honored concept frequently forgotten in our hasty lifestyles. Thank you for this reminder of the importance of holding the space.