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Dad died in 1998 and Mom in 2003. But they’re alive in my heart forever.

“I don’t have a lot of talents,” my mother often said, “but people tell me I’m a good friend. I think that’s because I listen.”

“Mom, if you’re a good listener, you don’t need a lot of other talents,” I assured her.

We both laughed–and agreed there’s a terminal shortage of good listeners in our society. People like to talk–mostly about themselves, their ideas, their opinions, their problems. And they want someone to listen to them. Who will that be, however, if everyone else wants to talk too?

It could be you. Or me. If we choose to make it so. Listening was always a challenge for me. I got into trouble as a kid for talking in class. I had much to say at home around the table. And I loved to hang on the phone with friends until my parents gave me that look that said, “Get off the phone or else…”

It wasn’t until much later in my life that I realized that listening is an act of intimacy, a selfless act, because it includes being there for another person, and allowing him or her to share heart, mind, and spirit without commentary, advice, or point of view. It can also be a gift to one’s self. We might learn something of value from what the other has to say, though we rarely think of that ahead of time.

I remember a time when I was on the receiving end of this gift. And it came from an unexpected source–my parents–the very ones who raised their eyebrows at times when I rambled on and on as a child and teen.

On a Saturday I stopped by the nursing home where they lived. Both depended on others to help them with basic living tasks, to drive them to medical appointments, and to do small favors such as potting and watering the flowers on their terrace or playing a CD or tape of their favorite music, to help fill their long days.

I hurried into their room, all smiles, as I hugged and greeted them and began talking a mile a minute (as I’m known to do)! I was on my way home from a family camp where I had spent a week with my oldest daughter, her husband, and their five children. I had one story after another to share with my parents regarding the events of the week.

Their eyes were bright with interest. My father, who rarely smiled (one of the side effects of Parkinson’s Disease) was actually grinning as I related funny incidents involving his great-grandchildren. Mother squeezed my hand repeatedly and tears welled in her eyes as I reminisced about similar vacations we had enjoyed as a family when I was growing up.

What listeners they were. I felt as though I were the Queen of England holding court! The more they responded, the more I talked. Then suddenly I stopped and apologized. “I’m talking your ears off,” I said, laughing with embarrassment. “How about if we take a stroll outside? Dad, I’ll push you in the wheelchair and Mom can walk alongside. It’s a beautiful sunny day.”

My father raised his hand to stop me. “Oh no,” he said, “it’s such a treat to listen to you, I don’t want to waste a moment. Keep talking.” So I did–until I had to leave about half an hour later.

Here was a gift so lovely, I cried as I said good-bye. My father, bound to a wheelchair, unable to feed himself, and my mother, no longer able to speak due to a stroke, could still squeeze the moments they had with me. Sixty minutes or more squeezed to the last drop of laughter and love.

Every talker needs a good listener. My parents were certainly that for me on this special Saturday. I had set out to bring them a few moments of joy, and received in return, a heart full of happiness.

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Mom and Dad on their wedding day, May 15, 1937.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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It Pays to Listen! — 23 Comments

  1. You continue to bless me with wonderful stories about your parents. Lots of wisdom and love come through with each one you post. You are right–there are listeners and talkers and also seasons in our lives when one is more prominent than others. I am grateful that you are such a good listener when I need to “unload.” You have been a true friend and confidant to me over the years. In fact, you are like the big sister I never had growing up. Love you to the moon and back!

    • Thank you, Glenda. What lovely and loving words. I so appreciate your friendship and support through the years. We’ve been there for each other no matter what and I am very grateful.

  2. I just wanted to cry at these sweet stories. Thank you for sharing them, Karen. It takes discernment to know when it is a gift to listen (like your parents) and when the gift needs to be sharing (like entertaining them with your family stories.) The Holy Spirit will let us know which is which, if we listen to HIM. <3

  3. This was a sweet story of a true heart engagement with your parents. I have been a family caregiver and a Hospice volunteer. On the other side of the coin, I have also been the one medically confined for multiple long periods of time. I hope that anyone who reads of your posting will understand that the simple gift of sharing their days with those who are confined is like a ray of sunshine on a cloudy day to them! It is a catalyst for healing and hope that sharpens dulled senses. Such a simple gift all of us are capable of giving. God bless you for sharing this wonderful story.

  4. Ditto to all the comments above, Karen. Those of us who have lost parents, or other loved ones can relate. My husband used to say something like “Into a closed mouth no flies can enter.” Knowing when to talk and when to listen is an art, I think, but it often takes a lot of practice.

    God bless.

    • You’re so right, Marie. It does take practice to be a good listener. I’m still learning. 🙂

  5. Beautiful, simply beautiful Karen. You are a shining light for us all. May we be blessed with the knowing of when to stop and listen and when in deed we need to speak up and be heard!
    Thank you for this delightful sharing.

  6. Karen, I cannot get over how much you look like your mother in the first photo!! Beautiful!
    You certainly touched on one if not THE favorite ‘saying’ of mine that I heard not many years ago: “Wisdom comes from listening” ! After I heard that statement I could think of so MANY times this ‘fit’. I look back at some of my experiences and realize that perhaps most of what I know came from ‘listening’. I learned things I need to do and I learned things I should NOT do. It does pay to listen!!! Thanks for sharing this beautiful story about your parents. I love to hear things like this. No wonder you ‘turned out so well’ !
    Love you. Margaret

  7. Thank you, Margaret. What a compliment that you think I look like Mom. Many of my features are actually like my dad so I guess I have some of each–a good thing. I appreciate the saying you shared, “Wisdom comes from listening.” I will remember that as I can always use more wisdom! 🙂 Love to you too.

  8. Karen, thanks for your thoughtful words on listening. I could relate to the part about your father with his Parkinson’s, since I also have Parkinson’s. It’s so good you can communicate with and care about your parents. God bless you!

    • Thanks for your comment, Nancy. It’s always a pleasure to hear from you. I hope you are doing well despite the Parkinson’s. I pray your meds are helping you remain stable.

  9. Dear Karen, thank you again for this most heartfelt story of you and your parents. The image of your love for them and theirs for you is clear and warm. May GOD Richly Bless you and all those you love.

  10. Karen your story touched my heart very deeply. When I read your tender story I felt like I was watching a movie. Your story is a beautiful reminder to cherish those moments with out parents and loved ones. Your writing makes the world a brighter place.

    • Thank you, Sandy, for your kind encouraging words. I’m happy to know that my family story was a blessing to you.

  11. Oh, Karen, I love this! And so true….listening is a gift we give to others. Growing up wits a bilateral hearing loss, I did all text talking so I wouldn’t have the agony of trying to decipher words or experience the embarrassment when my answers had nothing to do with what was said. Then the other kids made fun of me … people still think it’s funny to repeat the most often used question of the hearing disabled – “What?” It’s not funny. But now I have two hearing aids and am teaching myself to “be slow to speak and quick to listen” – and to truly listen – with my ears, my mind, and my heart. Thank you for this wonderful post. Love you, my friend.

    • Thank you, Michele. How nice to hear from you. I appreciate your sharing your challenges. You have reached so many goals and blessed so many people (including me) with your writing, despite your hearing loss. May God continue to speak into your life so you can speak into the lives of others.

  12. Sorry for the word errors. I typed my response on my phone, and the keyboard is so little. Then there’s Otto Korreck, who likes to play havoc with my messages. Corrections: with (not “wits”) and the (not “text”).

    • I make the same mistakes when I try to text on my phone. Fingers too big for tiny keys! 🙂

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