Losing my special needs brother and my mom to breast cancer has made me very aware that time and health are not guaranteed.
It has also created an urgency for me to live to the fullest and a desire to share meaningful experiences with others because those memories are PRICELESS!
This conversation is sponsored by The Funeral and Memorial Information Council (FAMIC.) All opinions are my own.
I’m not typically the life of the party in a crowd but I am pretty good with people one on one because that’s where I feel most comfortable.
I’ve learned a lot of my people skills from dad and my grandpa, who never met at a stranger.
My dad has also never had a hard time with deep thoughts…the first time that he met my boyfriend/future husband he asked him if he had a personal mission statement.
(I don’t know many 19-year-olds with a personal mission statement, do you?)
It’s probably a combination of his upbringing, his work training in people skills, his faith, and life circumstances facing the death of his teenage special needs son and his wife that have caused him to add more weight to his words.
He’s been faced with those hard questions about end of life wishes way sooner than anyone should, which has made him more open to talking about how he wants to be remembered when he dies and what he wants his legacy to be.
It’s also made me think about life as a fragile gift and reflect on how valuable and precious our time is with each other.
How Can You Have a More Meaningful Conversation?
You can start by being curious about others.
My dad has always modeled curiosity, which he learned from his dad, who was also an only child who loved meeting new people.
If you want to be the most interesting person in the room, be interested in others.
Ask Them Follow Up Questions
When someone shares something that piques your interest, ask them follow-up questions to show that you are interested and want to learn more.
You will be amazed at what you discover about people when you dig a little deeper.
Use Conversation Tools
Sometimes it can be awkward to come up with ideas of what to say, especially if you are visiting someone in the hospital.
You don’t want to dwell on the fact that they are sick and if they have been in the hospital for a while, you know that their world has been revolving around their sickness and don’t want to focus on the negative.
I have always felt a bit uncomfortable in hospitals, to begin with, and I wish that I would have used conversation cards with my mom when I visited her or when I went to visit my grandparents.
I have so many questions now that I don’t have answers for.
What’s a Conversation Card?
A Conversation Card basically helps facilitate easy conversation going beyond the fluff transitioning into sharing something more meaningful.
Instead of talking about the weather or what’s on tv, you can learn things about a loved one… and about yourself by the simple act of asking each other questions.
The Have the Talk of a Lifetime Conversation Cards come in a deck of 50 with each card featuring a single question meant to initiate a meaningful, personal conversation. Families members are encouraged to gather, pick a card, read the question, and let the stories unfold.
These cards are a resource of the Funeral and Memorial and Information Council’s Have the Talk of a Lifetime program created as tools to spark meaningful conversations to inform a rich understanding of loved ones and the legacy they want to leave.
These cards can be used with family members of all ages and offer a chance to dive into deeper conversations about loved ones and the defining moments of their lives.
“What is the best lesson you learned from your mom, dad or another role model?”
“What personal event(s) have most shaped your life?”
“Describe the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done.”
“How do you want to be remembered?”
It doesn’t have to be awkward
Deep thoughts don’t have to be difficult to uncover.
I offered a pack of cards to my friend who was visiting her dad in the hospital. She said that the cards were so helpful because it helped take away the awkwardness of what to say and what to talk about.
It was something that they could do together and didn’t focus on his current condition.
She was able to learn things about her dad that they had never talked about from simple questions on the cards which led to great follow up questions.
My dad and I spent some quality time by the river on a beautiful day to go over some of the cards.
The time quickly flew by and we ended up there for hours…but it didn’t feel like it.
He would select a card at random with a question and then share.
Many of his answers led me to ask several follow up questions to learn more about him and other family members that I never got to meet.
One of the cards asked to describe the perfect day.
My dad’s answer was “Peace, No worries, No regrets.” (I told you that he was deep)
I was also surprised by some of his answers based on what I thought that I already knew… only to discover that there is still so much more that we haven’t talked about yet.
I really enjoyed discovering answers to questions that showed more of his adventurous side and learning more about the shenanigans he got into as a kid.
From time to time there were questions that we didn’t have answers for, questions that we wished we had asked our grandparents.
I also wish that I would have asked my mom so many of these questions during our visits when she was sick before she died.
The next best thing is trying to learn more about her through my dad.
Making moments count with quality time over quantity.
As my kids have gotten older I have less time with them at home between school and sports. I feel the weight of my limited time with them at home and the desire to make it count.
As soon as they started middle school it’s felt as if my time with them has been accelerating rapidly before my eyes with the reality that I only have a few more summers with them before they graduate.
Asking them these types of questions is another way for our family to get to know each other on a deeper level.
You can also incorporate them in a way that’s not a big deal.
You can each draw a card when you are sitting down for dinner, or make a road trip go by a little faster by taking turns asking questions in the car.
You can also use the cards when you are visiting relatives who live out of town to help reminisce and retell stories to younger generations.
You can learn more about those epic holiday celebrations where someone did something legendary or hilarious that is still spoken of each year.
Where to find the “Have the Talk of a Lifetime” Cards
For more information on purchasing a deck “Have the Talk of a Lifetime” cards ($10 per deck), visit www.talkofalifetime.org.
One of the biggest life lessons I have from losing so many family members is to try to not have regrets.
There are so many conversations that I wish I would have had with my mom and grandparents.
It’s so important to have these types of conversations while your loved ones are still alive and these cards are a simple tool that can help facilitate those meaningful conversations that you will value for the rest of your life.
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