Listen With A Smile

I was recently introduced to a gentleman and his wife at a popular lunch place. As we sat together, he began launching into very expressive and animated stories about his political career (he is a former State of Texas Speaker of the House). I noticed as he was talking that I was smiling as I was listening.

In the classes I have taught covering listening skills, I usually emphasize paying very close attention to the other person (body language, tone of voice, etc.). Only as I was listening to this gentleman did I remind myself that it’s just as important to pay attention to YOUR OWN expressions and body language while listening as it is to THEIRS! As I smiled, he saw this and continued to share his story with joy and excitement.   

Try this as you are listening to the next person you encounter. See if it doesn’t make a difference for you as it did for me.  🙂

Dealing With Death

Dealing with death is a subject that I never wanted to address, even during and after the deaths of my father and grandfather in 1997. I’m glad I have found a way to not just deal with it, but to realize its place and role in life. I have done this through two areas of personal experience.

The first area that has helped me deal with death is through my work as a Hospice Austin volunteer. I must admit that two years ago when I signed up for the extensive training to be a Hospice Austin volunteer, I did it because I thought I might get some business from it. Instead of getting any business from it, I have received much more. I have learned an appreciation for the process of death and how it can be a beautiful thing. In those cases when a loved one has time to prepare for the inevitable, the things that are said and done are priceless. Think about it, if you are blessed to have some time to say goodbye and thank the people in your life, how would you do it? I’ve seen some of the most wonderful things from both the patient and the loved ones they address.

I was reminded of this over the weekend. I had a last minute, “11th Hour” request from Hospice Austin to go to the hospital to relieve a caregiver who was sitting by her grandmother’s side as she was going through her journey. While the patient was unconscious the entire time I was there, I felt the thanks and sacrifice this wonderful granddaughter was giving her grandmother. She asked Hospice Austin to have a volunteer there so her grandmother would not be alone just in case she died in her absence. While the patient did not die while I was there, I felt good in giving this  courageous granddaughter some relief in the middle of the night, so she could address her personal needs at home. As I sat with the patient, she seemed at peace during the final path of her journey.

The second area that has taught me a new perspective in dealing with death is my work with LifeStories Alive. Over the years and on a few occasions, I have received a call from a child of an interviewee to let me know that Mom or Dad has died. What happened the first time I received such a call has happened every time since. I am immediately flushed with sadness, then a smile comes across my face, knowing that their stories and essence of life has been captured and preserved forever. The next thing I do, and I do this every time, is put in the DVD of their LifeStory, watch for a while, smile a bit and cry a bit.

I have discovered  that death is all about life, if we give it a chance to reveal itself. And while not everyone wants to share the stories of their journey, when they do, it’s truly a beautiful thing.