The son of a public figure had lunch with several of his father’s former colleagues following his dad’s death. The stories they told painted a vivid picture of a father he did not know. He was so grateful to better understand his dad that it motivated him to seek out even more stories from other sources.
When a loved one dies, it feels so final, as if our relationship with them has ceased. And yet many people find that despite death, they continue to learn a great deal about their deceased loved one through the stories that friends, family, classmates, former neighbors, and frequently their colleagues share.
One widow was deeply touched by the stories from her beloved husband’s workplace. Her deceased husband was a journalist and his colleagues disclosed many newsroom stories she had never heard. With her husband gone, it meant a great deal to her to understand the pace and pulse of his place of work.
What stories do you have to share? Sympathy notes and messages of condolence have greater meaning when they reflect on personal experiences with the deceased. It can be anything; a joke, a conversation, a collaborative work project, or a mutual encounter. Maybe it was manning the barbecue together at a neighborhood event when you almost burned the burgers or volunteering at the high school track meet when you forgot to start the stopwatch. Something compassionate or serious works too; the day a friend or neighbor came to your rescue, babysitting during an emergency or pushing your car out of a snowbank.
I recently attended a dinner to honor a dear friend who died ten years ago. Her daughter, thirteen when her mom died, chose to spend the tenth anniversary surrounded by her mother’s friends. She wanted to hear our stories, so each of us stood and shared how we met her mom and reminisced about the ensuing friendship. We all learned a lot; our dear friend had such a positive and lasting influence on so many people. Her daughter was left with fresh memories and insights and even photographs she had never seen.
Our stories keep loved ones alive. So let’s keep them coming.
Robbie Miller Kaplan is an author who writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. She has written How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say, a guide to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about experience loss, now at a reduced price for e-books for "Illness & Death," "Suicide," "Miscarriage," "Death of a Child," "Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby," "Pet Loss," "Caregiver Responsibilities," "Divorce" and "Job Loss." All titles are in Amazon's Kindle Store.