Tag Archives: grief

Interview Those You Love (Before They’re Gone)

Several years ago I lost both parents within 5 weeks of each other.

Among other things, I had a bunch of things I always wanted to ask them Things like, where were they when the landed on the moon? When Kennedy was shot? How did you overcome your business challenges? What did you fear most as a parent? How did you overcome your heartattack and get back into the workforce? What would you do differently as a parent?

….and many many more things. I wanted to ask them about their school experience more, other relatives, family details, etc.

Then recently I came upon this, and I wanted to share, I think it is something we never thinks about but we should.….

http://brendonburchard.tumblr.com/post/98560312858/interview-your-loved-ones-before-theyre-gone

From Brendon Burchard….

Full Transcript:

How do you honor people?

If you have loved ones who you’ve lost or you have people in your life right now who you just admire greatly, who are helping you out, who are influencing you in positive ways, how do you honor people?

In our society, especially in the Western culture it’s so much about giving them gifts, pay increases or sending them stuff.

But I actually want to talk about a different way that you can honor people that a lot of people from our audience who know this story always find meaningful. I think it would be so phenomenal an experience for your family members and for you in the future.

Maybe you know the story and maybe you don’t, but in 2009 on Mother’s Day, my dad was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. He’d been a pretty healthy guy, played racquetball and went bowling all the time, played golf and he was happy and healthy. But he woke up on Mother’s Day and he was walking down the hall of the house and my mom saw him drifting a little bit and said, ”What’s wrong with you?” He said, “I’m out of balance and it hurts here on my side.”

They went to the doctor and the doctor said that’s weird your spleen seems to be enlarged and they did a bunch of tests and found out he had acute myeloid leukemia.

It’s the kind of leukemia you definitely don’t want. You don’t want either, but that one is the one that tends to take people’s lives quickly. Dad went through a couple rounds of chemo and unfortunately they weren’t helping. They wanted to put him on a course of the third treatment but it was clear it wasn’t going to work, that would decimate his body, and he made the choice to go home and be at our house with Hospice care until the disease took him.

So, from diagnosis to death we had 59 days with dad and that was it.

I feel very lucky for those times. I had an amazing relationship with my dad as did my family. I love him so much and it was something that’s taken this many years to shoot a video about, because I used to not be able to control any of my emotions and I didn’t speak about it that much on stages for a long time, because it was such a huge emotional toll.

One thing I was happy about that I was able to do during that time is when we knew it was bad and that we might lose him, I happened to be away traveling… I was teaching a seminar to a few hundred people and he called to let me know the second course of chemo hadn’t worked and they didn’t know how long he would have. They were constantly saying, “You have a week left, a week, ten days, three days.” It just took his body so fast because what happens is the stem cells aren’t creating the white cells correctly and the white cells start hampering the body’s ability to function. They’re mutated with leukemia and it takes over your entire body just that fast.

I didn’t know if I would get to see him again or if I could get out there fast enough, so I asked him, “Dad, can I call you and interview you? I want to ask you some questions and record it.” He was in the hospital and just recovering having gone through the chemo and he said sure. I just didn’t know if I would get there fast enough. I called him back and used a free conference calling line, which you can Google and find that allows you to record. I called him and recorded it.

I asked him 30 questions or so about life and I’ve posted the link to those questions [click here to get the interview guide] and I’ve formatted it in a way where you could ask anyone in your life these questions. It’s just about getting to hear them talk about what’s important in their life.

  • What did they learn when they were young in adolescence?
  • How did their mother or father influence them?
  • What did they learn from their parents?
  • What did their grandparents want them to carry on?
  • What do they want you to know after they’re gone?
  • What do they want your brothers or sisters to know after they’re gone?
  • What values do they want to teach?
  • What do they want you to remember when the times are dark?

Just advice from this person that you love.

It was my dad, and he gave unbelievable advice. I would say from everything I own in my life now, this is the most treasured thing I have is this recording of Dad, just him talking about life.

It took me a long time to be able to listen to. If I listen to it, I completely get emotional about it, but at the same time I find it empowering and inspiring and it connects me back to him. It’s meaningful to me, too, because while you’re watching me on video now or listening to me in whatever format, in growing up, my dad, his generation just didn’t have any video. I don’t have that much existing video of my father at all outside a wedding, so this is one of the few remaining recordings I have of him.

It was a two-three hour conversation that really inspired me. One of the things he said in there is the reason I’m shooting this video. I asked him what he wanted his kids to always remember and we were talking a lot about it and he just said a few things, these seven things he was always telling us in some way or another throughout our lives and he was demonstrating. He’d say them, but he kind of strung them together in this thought and I keep returning to it over and over again. His seven legacy statements for us were:

  • Be yourself
  • Be honest
  • Do your best
  • Take care of your family
  • Treat people with respect
  • Be a good citizen
  • Follow your dreams

Those seven things, which were really his values and who he was in so many ways, and he said a lot of amazing things during the interview, but those things I carry with me and I’ve perpetuated over and over. I’d tell his message to all of my audiences. I’ve shared that on a quote card on my Facebook pagebefore and it literally got 40k likes in a week. I don’t know how many times it’s been shared now, but literally hundreds of thousands of times been seen by millions of people and it stunned me.

It reminded me that one of the best ways that we can honor somebody is to carry forth their values but not just to communicate them, not to just live them or have them, but to share with other people.

Maybe you had a grandparent who inspired you and you should tell people about that grandparent and what they told you about life and how to live a good life.

I think there isn’t a lot of conversation, amazingly, in our culture broadly and at an individual level about what it takes to live a good life.

People don’t talk about that as much anymore. Personal growth in terms of an industry seems to be declining, because now people can just get something for any time and everything is so immediate, less people reading books and that genre, less people engaging it seems like.

I’m blessed to have so much of a wave in this area of personal development with this YouTube show being so successful and my Facebook thing taking off and email list exploding over the past couple years. I can share with you that what makes those things meaningful is trying to share meaningful advice with people, meaningful insights and I think you can do that.

I think there have been people who have inspired you and the more you tell their story and tell people explicitly and directly, this is what they taught me the more we carry forth the legacy of those before us for future generations, the more we become standard bearers of what a good life is because if no one’s talking about it and if no one is communicating values as much anymore, we start to lose that.

And I think what’s happened is generation after generation has failed to hold the line of high standards in humanity.

We’re getting more and more lackadaisical with “anything is okay” and celebrating idiots on television, angry people or the smart bitter comment that jabs at somebody versus talking about what it takes to be a good person.

What does it take to live the ideal life? Obviously I’ve dedicated my life to that. This whole thing is about living your charged life. What would that feel like?One of the things to live a fully charged life is to honor the people in your life. I encourage you to interview them and completely steal my interview form and call someone you love and interview them. I think you’ll be surprised at some of the things you’ll learn and some of the tidbits they’ll give you, you can remind yourself. I carry them around in my wallet. I think about these things because they give a guidepost of behavior everyday to live up to, to live into your highest self; to live into those ideals and values.

There are lots of ways to honor someone. If they’re still with you, sometimes it can be as simple as calling them, taking them out to lunch, sitting them down, looking them directly in the eye and saying,

“I just wanted to spend a few minutes with you sharing how you’ve impacted my life. I just want to spend a few minutes with you telling you why you made such a difference for me. I want to share with you the values and maybe you never told me but I just see them in you, there’s something… Your strength and positivity or, your hope or your belief in me. You might not know it but it carried me through days that I didn’t think I could make it through. What you have told me I’m going to carry forth. What you help me do I’m going to help more people do.”

It’s in that perpetuation of goodness that we hold the line of the best that is in humanity, and I encourage you to do that.

It can be as simple as writing a letter to someone and professing to them, this is why I love you, care for you and admire you.

It can be as simple as shooting a video and sending it to them saying, “Hey, I just wanted you to know the impact that you’re making and I’m going to carry it forward.”

The number one way to honor someone is to carry their voice and values forward everyday through your behavior and explicitly through stories and advice and guidance of other people.

I think that’s the ultimate way to honor people, more than the fanfare of a fancy gift or if you have a great employee and giving them a raise, but to really celebrate somebody’s words and their noble character and what they have to share with other people, that is a magical way to make a difference, to perpetuate the goodness in humanity and to celebrate and honor someone who’s made a difference in your life.

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Like this episode? Please share it with others. Let’s inspire others to live a fully charged life. The interview guide referenced in this video can be downloaded free here.

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‘Comfort dogs’ help deal with grief

From usatoday.com

‘Comfort dogs’ help Newtown deal with grief

Doug Stanglin, USA TODAY3:56p.m. EST December 18, 2012

Since 2008, Golden Retrievers from Lutheran Church Charities visit scenes of national tragedy to help people grieve.

A team of Golden Retrievers — “comfort dogs” — arrived in Newtown, Conn., over the weekend to help grief-stricken residents deal with the school shooting tragedy.

Lutheran Church Charities sent 10 dogs to the town for residents who want to pet them or pray with the dog’s handler, Tim Hetzner, president of the organization, told the Chicago Tribune.

The dogs not only show up in times of national tragedy, they also visit hospitals, nursing homes and parks to provide comfort to those in need.

“The dogs have become the bridge,” dog-handler Lynn Buhrke told the Tribune. “People just sit down and talk to you.”

The dogs have a Facebook page, plus Twitter accounts and e-mail addresses so people can keep in touch with them.

The dogs — from Illinois and Indiana — that currently are in Newtown include Barnabas, Chewie, Chloe, Hannah, Luther, Prince, Ruthie and Shami.

The dogs’ first stop on Sunday was Christ the King Lutheran Church, which was holding funerals this week for two young children killed in the Friday massacre.

The comfort-dog initiative started in 2008 at Northern Illinois University after a gunman killed five students.

The dogs were originally sent simply to provide a distraction to the student community, but proved so popular they were invited back, the newspaper reports. The program has since grown from a handful of dogs in the Chicago area to 60 dogs in six states.

The 2 pound dog with really big angel wings

Besides onewebstrategy.com, this blog, I also sometimes write – or have my daughters contribute to, another blog about our dog (http://yorkiebichon.wordpress.com/) – it was originally created to be a fun, upbeat, simple little blog about how little things can make a big difference. It was created to entertain, enlighten and help us all remember the importance of laughter, family, friends, and fun. It was something that my daughters could read, that they could write about and contribute to, and they could have a little fun with – and I could have a little fun with… This blog posting is a little bit of a downer, sorry, but needs to be said…..

Hi, this is Daisy’s male human. I am the only male human in her home. Daisy and I wrestle and play more than the others at home.

Heck, I’m a Forty-something male, married with children, and here I am writing about a 2 pound dog named Daisy. Real manly. Are you serious? Yep.

If you have followed the blog for a while, or read the ABOUT page, you’ll know that the blog is based on how (and I realize that it may sound silly) Daisy made a big difference in my family’s life, in my life, during a tough year. Like many Americans, I became unemployed for the first time ever in 2009. I was making some nice money and it went away. Then my wife’s sweet grandmother passed away. Then my dad passed away. 5 weeks later my mother passed away. We lost my wife’s uncle and her other grandmother that year too. We bought Daisy that summer. A little, feisty, fun Yorkie-Bichon.

Daisy brought the family some much needed joy, fun, and distraction that year, and continued to do so.

She often wanted to play, and for 2 pounds, she got into it. Like many dogs, she would always greet you with all sorts of enthusiasm when you came home. She did silly things that made us laugh. She would offer a lick almost anytime you wanted it. More that anything, she loved to cuddle. Being only 2 pounds, should could cuddle in an armpit, on your lap, in one arm, on your shoulder (like a parrot?), and other small places. She had spunk. She always thought that she could jump up anywhere, and would try and try. I think that she believed she could do anything – or that she was bigger and badder than she really was.

One thing that she did for me, and I hardly told anyone, was kinda sweet. I was really depressed one day. I was thinking about the loss of my parents, my unemployment, and my responsibilities as a husband and dad. A tear came down my cheek. Daisy was across the room in her bed but suddenly came running over, jumped up on the couch, and up to my face, and licked the tear off, wagging her tail, and then licking me all over. This happened another tough day too when she was in a completely different room. Somehow she must have sensed it or whatever. She came running in and cheered me up.

She cheered us all up that year, and ever since. In some ways, Daisy represents recovery and renewal for us. She helped us remember that life goes on. Through her unconditional love, we were reminded how we share that love with one another; our family and our friends. We admired her style, her spunk and her enthusiasm – she had a big heart for a little dog. Most dogs help us to be more aware and ‘in the moment’ – to enjoy the present.

We remembered that sometimes the most important thing is a roof over your head, a nice warm bed, food, and people that love you. Those fancy toys don’t really mean that much…..

As you may have noticed, I am speaking of Daisy in the past tense.

This week, Daisy awoke one morning, energetic, wagging her tail, licking us, and full of excitement as usual. Later in the day she became lethargic and slowly went down hill. One Wednesday, Daisy, approx. 2 pounds and 3 years old passed away peacefully.

My first thought was that we, as a family, (or me) still need Daisy to cheer us up….that we still needed her excitement in the morning and when we got home…her presence around the house, in our arms and on our laps.

Then I immediately felt something else. Daisy came to us when we needed cheering up. She did a great job and showed lots of love to the family. We laughed a lot because of her entertainment. Now Daisy is gone and I feel like maybe someone or something is telling us we don’t need her anymore, that we’re ok on our own now – and maybe some other family needs Daisy to cheer them up. Maybe she’s with them now. I may sound weird to some but her passing helped me finally conclude my grief for the sudden loss of both of my parents years ago.

I never thought I’d write a blog about a dog when I was over 40. It sounds kind of silly, actually. Then again, I am consistently, pleasantly surprised by people, life, the universe and all things that come my way lately. I think this blog is not really about just a dog, its about the love and laughter of a family, the playfulness and fund we find in life, of our hopes and happiness –  our pets can represent that sometimes. We personalize them and sometimes ‘impose’ human traits that really aren’t there sure. I am grateful for all of the people in my life. I am grateful for Daisy and all of the pets I’ve had through life.

UPDATE: I posted the above about one day after Daisy passed. In that short of time, we have received some much support from friends, and even some strangers. We received 2 handmade posters, multiple cards from our friends and from classmates of both daughters, our daughters received so much support from their school, we all received supportive texts and Skypes, my wife received many supportive Facebook messages, and people gave us brownies, chocolates, scones and a potted Gerber Daisy plant. School teachers gave hugs. The world is pretty cool. There are some really nice people out there. We have some really great friends. Thanks for all of the nice thoughts. Right back at ya!

Cabinet doors and piles of paper…

Cabinet doors and piles of paper…

I realize it seems like a strange title. Bear with me.

I helped moved, or I actually did move my parents three times throughout my life.

We moved from Pittsburgh to Ligonier when I was 9. Even though I was only 9, trust me, they worked me. Then years after I moved out and my wife and I were married, my parents downsized from the Ligonier house to their final Latrobe home (not far from Arnold Palmer himself). I helped them move from Ligonier to Latrobe. If you read my posts, you may recall that my parents both passed away in 2009. With the help of my one sister, I again “moved” my parents things one final time. In some cases we took the items, we gave to others, we sold at auction, and we put in a dumpster. It was sad, tough, draining, yet there were things I found, things I read and experiences I had going through their possessions for which I am grateful. My parents saved lots of my cards, my dad saved so many things from my career and notes about my accomplishments.

I digress. Years and years ago my father was a cabinet maker. He started small in a chicken coop as a one man gang. He grew and grew it until he had about 30 employees. At 45 years old, he had his first heart attack and soon sold that business and became an independent sales rep in the kitchen cabinet industry. He sold to other cabinet shops and kitchen dealers.

Well, as you can imagine, after having a large cabinet manufacturing business for years, after being a cabinet door and component rep for years, one does collect a lot of cabinet doors and parts. In our double car garage there were shelves, bags, suitcases, and piles of cabinet doors , front frames, plywood sides, and all sorts of parts. We had a metal pole building (like a barn) and at least half of it was filled with even more! There were cherry doors with stain, maple with paint, oak unfinished, and all other combinations. There were metal bread boxes that he bought in bulk and didn’t sell. There were bundles of mismatched, incorrect wooden spindle rail that some supplier paid him in lieu of the commission he owed to my father (for years he tried to sell pieces to recover some of the funds but couldn’t). There were laminated Formica doors from the 1970’s, cheap plywood doors for the projects, and fancy handmade custom walnut doors. In many cases there were just one or two doors of each. Sometimes there was a whole set (kitchen) of the doors.

Let me make a claim; my father didn’t throw anything away! He was born during the Depression and started from nothing and made something, something great. He accumulated possessions, shall we say?

I can tell you that the doors and parts that were moved from Pittsburgh to Ligonier were definitely still there when I cleaned out the home in Latrobe years later. And yes, he added more and more new ones! There were long, heavy, dusty, mouse-infested tubes of mold-covered plastic track. There were piles and piles of moldings that went out of style in 1979. There were countless damaged pieces, warped doors, water-stained parts that were beyond repair.

Why did he keep all of these parts? Part of me still gets sad talking about it even years later. He kept these parts in hopes that, when he retired, he could build things for he and my mother, for his kids, for his grandkids, for the church, for friends, etc. etc. Through the years I recall him holding up a specific piece or pointing at a pile of items and describing how he intended to make a table, a dresser, or a desk for someone.

Don’t get me wrong, he did build things for people. He made me a printer stand, computer desk, a workbench and I know he made things for church, for friends, and for his toughest customer, my mom.He helped build things for the church, helped with the kitchen renovation there too.

But, when he passed, he had years and years of pieces left. I recall standing in there barn, looking at the piles of things left behind, being overwhelmed by the work ahead, overwhelmed by the feelings of loss, and suddenly realizing that my dad will never be able to build all of those pieces for his loved ones. In that sad state I thought of it as some kind of ‘barn of broken dreams’. We had 4 of those large, full sized dumpsters filled and removed.

Throwing out most of the pieces was so difficult for me in many ways. Like my dad, I don’t like to throw away anything but I knew I had to get rid of some things. There was a sentimental nature to each item. There was the sadness, emptiness, and loss tied to the action. There was the feeling that my dad didn’t fulfill his dream of using up all of these potential gifts. He enjoyed making the gifts, giving them and seeing people enjoy the pieces. I felt that he would never be able to see that joy and I felt bad.

Over time, my state of mind improved and I reconciled the items left behind. Like anything, when I calmed down a bit, I was able to see in my mind all the things that my dad was able to accomplish and that these additional pieces would have been ‘bonus’ pieces for his life. I truly believe that.

So what’s the title about – piles of paper? My home office is sometimes messy. I have piles that are organized on my desks but they don’t look neat. From time to time I go in and clean it up, purge extra stuff, and I organize it.

The other day I walked in my office and was going through some piles of information, articles, books, CDs. I was aware of my own thinking at that moment and noticed that, over years and years, I had been collecting these articles, books, CDs, and other information so that ‘some day’ I would start to write a novel, a non-fiction book, a blog, articles, and other products to share with friends and maybe with the world. I was collecting all this ‘good stuff’ so that I could creatively do my thing to it and share with the masses. Sound familiar?

It struck me that, like other instances, I was just like my father here – but instead of cabinet doors and parts waiting for stain and assembly, my piles of information were sitting there waiting for my creative input, processing and articulation.

After a breather, after a bit of a shock, I knew that I had to take action today. I had to start a book, blog, anything. It didn’t have to be perfect. But it had to be. This blog that you’re reading is not the first attempt or iteration. So far I believe that it is the best one I’ve produced and I hope you can gain value from it.

I guess I just want to use up those piles of information sooner rather than later so I can see others benefit. Maybe my father was sent to teach me that lesson. Regardless why or how, it was something valuable for me to realize.

Here’s to hoping that you start using up your cabinet doors. You have a dream, a talent, information, gifts, or something that you want to do, right? Don’t let your children uncover it after you’re gone. I heard Wayne Dyer say once, “Don’t die with your music still inside you. Listen to your intuitive inner voice and find what passion stirs your soul.”

Show your kids and others around you that you value your talents and that you want to contribute to the world. Set an example for others. Be brave. It will never be perfect. Just go ahead. Just do it. Be yourself.

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