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Monk in the World Guest Post: Anne Barsanti

I am delighted to share another beautiful submission to the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Anne Barsanti’s reflection The Quiet.

I crave the quiet of a new morning. I’ve always been an early riser and am frequently astonished by the breadth of the day before it unfolds. There is so much, yet so little time.

I also crave stillness of mind and heart. Mostly I find this in long-distance running, swimming, and walking. For me, the stillness does not mean being sedentary. Moving meditation comes to mind as we flow in yoga, stride in steps, and breathe with our strokes. 

I have also learned that sitting still at the bedside requires the strength of a marathon runner or a long-practicing yogi. It takes strength to be still. I’ve sat long hours with my son, my brother, my mother, and my father over the course of nearly 20 years. 

During a long stretch in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU), I sat at my son’s bedside in a folding chair for nearly 20 hours each day for months. Protocols were strict for family members, even parents. I maintained a silent vigil. My husband brought me food; I took small breaks, but mostly I sat in silent prayer and asked for strength – strength for my son, his nurses and physicians, for our family and for myself. I stayed at his side because I promised him, I would be there with him.

Being at the beside brought me comfort. I could not heal him but I hoped my presence supported him especially when he went into himself and stopped speaking following the complicated heart transplant. He shielded himself from the onslaught of the PICU and all I could do was be there with him in our shared space in the hospital.

I sit in silence in waiting rooms.  I usually drive without music, walk without earbuds, and listen when everyone wants to talk.

I believe that the wordless conversations I had with my brother during his illness, mattered. Fatigue sets in for the sick, a person becomes too tired to interact, but they need a physical presence. I turn to the rosary in my prayers – using my fingers as beads, repeating the prayers and the mantra, “Now and at the hour of our death, Amen.”

During the last stage of my mother’s illness, my sister and I made a pact to be with her at her side 24/7. We alternated nights to keep us restored. We sat in silence with her, tended to her needs, and prayed. We told each other that we would maintain this vigil as long as necessary; yet also gave each other the dignity to say it was too much. My mother died in the 11th hour on St. Joseph’s Day. She knew the power of prayer and taught me to trust in its ability to heal and to accept God’s will.

Call me if you have someone in the hospital. I will sit with them. Suffering during the pandemic struck me most for the mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives who could not be at the bedside of their children, siblings, and spouses.

We cared for my father throughout the pandemic. I would arrive and often times conversation about the weather and the grandkids’ lives filled the room. But my father, like me, can live in silence. We were ok with sitting beside one another, watching the birds or listening to the quiet of the trees in the backyard. 

He fell, despite the efforts we made to keep him safe in his home. I took over the vigil the night he died. I was not in a straight-backed chair as I had been with my son. My father had been transferred to a hospital bed that afternoon which was set up in his room. So, I took his bed. I spoke gently to him to let him know he was not alone. As hours passed, the bed felt too comfortable. I could barely keep my eyes open; I told myself I could watch his chest rise and fall. He was breathing, then he was not. Was I asleep? My vigil was not as strong as it was 20 years ago. He knew, the Spirit knows. I was there. That night I gained a deeper appreciation for the apostles in the garden.

I still love the majestic silence of the trees. The calm in the early morning as the world awakens. Each moment allows us a new opportunity to be in awe and to be grateful.

I live in the world and make noise like everyone else. I also live in a world where silence and peace need to be nurtured and sustained. Where stillness and the quiet provide strength for our lives.

Anne Barsanti is a mother, wife, sister, friend, caregiver, cook, yogi, gardener, and poet. She has a lived experience that includes these roles as they overlap, compliment and compete for her attention. Currently plants, poetry, food pantry, and a feisty Portuguese water dog have captured her attention.

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