How many times have you discovered something surprising at the eulogy of a friend or relative? Over the years, both as a minister officiating at funerals and as a member of the gathered “beloved,” I’ve been made aware of some treasure I missed, some nugget of gold that I had not unearthed while the person was alive.
Some years ago—after a particularly heartwarming memorial service—I resolved to spend more time and ask better questions of those I have the privilege to know. I stopped sandwiching in a quick lunch date between tight morning and afternoon appointments in favor of clearing more time on both sides of the meal, allowing growing room for more than “So how is the car running?” “What a cute haircut!” and “Have you tried the new pharmacy?” I am still honing this skill, but I’m pleasantly surprised with the responses I’m getting when I ask questions such as “What’s important in your life right now?” or “What are your happiest memories so far?” Two particular favorites are “What are you most proud of?” and “What do you still want to accomplish?”
And then I listen. How unkind would it be to ask deeper and more invasive questions and then not wait for the gems to be brought out from the recesses of the mine? Admittedly, I ask these questions partly for selfish reasons: What can I learn from them? What has lasting importance? How might I redirect my own life? But even more, I’m learning to relish the richness of the sharing itself, the delight I see in their eyes with the realization that events of their life have value to another human being. Together, we’ve excavated a deeper relationship, and some ore has been chipped away to reveal precious, lasting treasure.
By Nancy Brown, M. Div., MS
Senior Services Director
City of Southlake, Texas