The Gift Of Conversation: How Well Do You Know Your Mom?

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How well do you know your mom? Most of us would say we know our moms pretty well. Maybe we know her favorite color, flower, dessert or music. We probably know who her friends are, what she likes to make for Thanksgiving dinner, whether she prefers high heels or flats. But what about her nickname when she was in grade school? Or the most important influence on her decision to become a doctor? Or the reason she was so dedicated to volunteering at the local meal program for so many years?

Kevin King of Big Bend, Wisconsin didn’t think about asking the “hard” questions until his mom had suffered a stroke and had memory loss and confusion, and those conversations were not really possible anymore. “I realized the time with my mom was precious and I didn’t know all the things I wanted to know about her,” said King. “She wasn’t one to talk about herself, she always turned the conversation back around to you, and with the memory issues, the conversation never quite got as deep as I hoped or would have liked,” he continued. King shared that when he and his four siblings had to put together her funeral service, “we struggled to create something meaningful and personal to her. We knew the little things but wondered if there was more we should have included. It was a beautiful service, but even today, we cannot help but wonder ‘was it what she would have wanted and did it reflect what mattered most to her?’ If only we had known more about her wishes, hopes and dreams.”

Like King, many of us don’t think about asking those kinds of questions until perhaps an illness or the end of life is imminent, or else we struggle to find that information while planning a funeral. Our moms are always there – taking care of everyone and doing what they’ve always done, year after year. As King said, “I wish we could have shared and enjoyed my mom’s stories, and laughed and cried about them together.”

This Mother’s Day is the perfect time to give the gift of your interest in your mom’s stories, memories or family lore. If you’re a mom or even a grandmother, you can prompt these discussions with your kids as well. However, you don’t have to figure out how to do it all by yourself. There is a national initiative to help people get conversations started called Have the Talk of a Lifetime. Have the Talk of a Lifetime (www.talkofalifetime.org) offers free guides and even a forum where other families have shared their experiences in having the talk.

So, how do you begin to Have the Talk of a Lifetime? Simply ask questions. Ask for stories. Things like:
•       What is your proudest achievement?
•       What was the one piece of advice you received from your parents or grandparents that you never forgot?
•       Tell me about the most memorable summer you had growing up.
•       Tell me about your favorite teacher. What did you learn from him or her?

While Mother’s Day is an ideal time to talk with mom or grandma, you can have the talk of a lifetime with anyone you hold dear — your parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, a spouse. It can happen anywhere you and your loved one are most comfortable — over a meal, at home, on a walk, while playing a game. The talk can be between you and your mom, or you could include others, such as family or friends. Yourconversation can take place at any time — not just at the end of life.

For more information or resources to get you started with the Talk of a Lifetime this Mother’s Day, visit www.talkofalifetime.org .

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