He Taught Us How to Listen

In the paper yesterday I read of the passing of a good man whom I was fortunate to know.

He was well-respected and accomplished and had done a lifetime of good work. When some friends and I knew him, he had developed Alzheimer’s, and it affected his language prominently. But he still had much to say.

One day, while we were near him and listening, he managed to get out a story that was very important to him — something he needed us to hear. It was a story about a meaningful time in his life when he had done a selfless act for his colleagues. It took several minutes for him get the story out, piecemeal, but the more words and thoughts expressed, the richer and deeper the impact of the story on all of us.

That day, he taught us how to listen — intently, mindfully, compassionately — and he taught us about the rewards to be found if we do.

He showed so much courage in sharing his story, when many may have chosen to be silent out of frustration, fear or shame.

What he shared was the content of his character. And Alzheimer’s hadn’t taken that.

Could not. Cannot, in fact.

So thank you, brave and storied soul, for venturing out with your Self.

Rest in peace, R –

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