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While all hell was breaking loose at the US Capitol in January 2021, I was visiting my 94-year-old mother in a nursing home in Connecticut. In the coming days, I sat alone in the chair beside Mom’s bed. I listened for her breathing.

“Mom, would you like some orange juice?”

Weakly, she nodded a yes.

With the tip of a straw, I lifted the liquid up to her parched lips. On Sunday, January 10, my brother drove seven hundred miles in one day to join me.

On Tuesday Mom reached for one last gasp of air. My brother and I looked at each other and said, “This is it. She’s gone.” We reached our other brother and while holding the phone we prayed over the body.

When I look back on that time with my mom, I appreciate most how all the distractions - all the noise! - faded into the background. Being there, listening to Mom’s breathing, was the only thing that mattered.

In this crazy world, how we all hunger for those moments when we can truly be present for each other.

Now a year after Mom’s death, I spend my time coaching people. During the time I am with someone I try to block out all the distractions and just be present to that other person. This is what being with Mom in her final days taught me.

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