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We all have known someone who has sadly passed away. And many times we find ourselves answering a very common question when we speak with another person who just found out about someone’s passing, “How did he or she die?”
That’s usually the first question right? It’s natural curiosity and basic human instinct to want to know. I would like us to challenge ourselves to ask a different question the next time we find ourselves in the same position. If we are ever asked how another person passed away, our new response should be, “First can I share with you how he or she lived?”
As people pass away, the reasons or causes aren’t nearly as important as how the person spent their time here on earth. Who were they? What did they do? What were they passionate about? How did they bring joy to others? How did they serve this world? What was the most amazing memory you have of that person? You see, how they passed away isn’t the story, the story is how they lived.
Let me share with you a story of someone who was very close to me and my family. Her name was Dr. Jill Pechacek. She was our family doctor for more than 17 years. You may have known Dr. Jill and maybe even know how she passed away. But instead of talking about how she passed, is it OK if I share with you how she lived?
“Every office visit began with a hug and a smile. These were genuine hugs and smiles. Each office visit included caring and thoughtful questions. Any time spent with Dr. Jill felt like she truly cared for you. She served hundreds of patients, but when she was with you she made you feel like you were her only patient. I was traveling on business in Mexico a few years ago and unfortunately became very sick, ending up in a hospital in Monterrey, Mexico. We called Dr. Jill and she literally stayed up through the night speaking with the doctors at the hospital. She made sure I was OK to travel and that I was OK. Not an on-call doctor, she personally stayed with me by telephone all night long.
“There must be hundreds of patients with similar stories because that is how Dr. Jill lived. How she lived was with love, kindness, caring, genuine sincerity, smiles, hugs, wisdom and warmth. She lived with intentional and focused love for her children, she lived as a proud mom. I could have easily just told you how she passed away with two words and been done with it. But I would have missed out on an opportunity to share with you who she was and how she lived. And I would have missed the warmth that fills my heart and the tears of love and appreciation that are rolling down my cheek right now as I tell you how she lived.”
Someday, hopefully a long time from now, someone will ask someone else how we passed away. And wouldn’t it be great if they would stop and say, “Can I first share with you how they lived?” And then when they share how we lived, what will that sound like? Will they say we lived with purpose, passion, and joy? Will they say we were awesome loving spouses and parents? Will they say we lived as a loving servant to God? Will they say how we made them laugh, helped them fulfill their dreams, listened to them when they needed us most? Will they say we were a difference maker in their life? Will they say we filled them with faith, hope, and love? Or will they say something else about us?
If we think about this right now, and if we really don’t like what we think people might say about how we lived, there is still time to change that. I mean, if you are reading this column right now there is still time for sure.
The wrong question to ask is, “How did they pass away?” The right question to ask is, “Can you tell me how they lived?”
So how about you? Are you creating memories for others who will one day happily share how you lived? I bet you are and I would love to hear all about it at firstname.lastname@example.org. And when we can remember and then share how our friends and loved ones lived, it really will be a better than good week.
Michael Norton is a resident of Castle Rock, the president of the Zig Ziglar Corporate Training Solutions Team, a strategic consultant and a business and personal coach.
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