Tag Archives: Questions

The Questions We Ask When Someone Dies Are the Wrong Ones!

  • How old was he?
  • How did he die?
  • Did he suffer at the end?
  • Was his family with him?
  • Various versions of:  Who is he leaving behind?  How are they doing?

These are all worthwhile questions.  They show how much we care.

They also provide a small glimpse into our future, and the future of the people we love and care about.  We will each take our final breath someday.  It’s just a question of when and how.

These questions do more to quench the morbid curiosity we have about our own future than to learn about the life of the person who just died.

We used to receive a local monthly newspaper.  I was always fascinated by the stories in the obituary section.  Each person had a story.  An arc through time.  Milestones.  Achievements.  Lives they touched.  But, these were merely stories someone else had written to encapsulate an entire lifetime into a few paragraphs of highlights.

It’s impossible to capture someone’s life in a few paragraphs or even an entire book.

Our lives aren’t just a series of events and milestones.  They’re an almost infinite collection of moments.

Moments that often seem trivial when they happen, but are anything but trivial.  These moments would probably never make the “highlight reel.”  These are the moments that (with the benefit of hindsight) are turning points in our life, and the lives of the people we touch.

Our lives are also a feeling.  An energy.  An impression we leave behind.  It’s not tangible, and it can’t be seen or touched.  But, it touches everyone around us.  It’s something they can only describe with a far-away look in their eyes when we’re gone.

The questions we ask when someone dies miss what really matters.

I’d like to add some new ones:

  • What are the moments you shared with him that you remember most?
  • What stories did he tell you?
  • Which stories had the most impact on you?
  • How did he make you feel when you were around him?
  • How did he impact the direction your life is going?
  • What did you learn from him and the way he lived his life?
  • What type of energy did he bring to your life?
  • What impression did he make on you?
  • What comes to your mind whenever you think about him, now that he’s gone?

And, one final question to consider while we’re still here:

How will those that you love and care about answer these questions after you’re gone?

 

The First Question People Ask About Any Change

There’s one question above all others that people ask when a change comes into their life. It doesn’t matter if the change comes in their personal or professional life. The change can be mundane or momentous. Gas prices went up. Your company is acquired by another company. You get a new boss. Road construction blocks your favorite way to the office. Your wife is pregnant. Your daughter just introduced you to her new boyfriend. Your dad was just diagnosed with cancer.

It doesn’t matter whether the change is good or bad (whatever the definitions of “good” or “bad” are to you). It doesn’t matter if the change impacts someone else more than you. Whether people admit it or not, the first question that comes into their head when confronted with a change is:

How will this change affect me?

Does this mean we are instinctively selfish or self-centered? Maybe. More on that later.

People making a change that impacts others have the luxury of getting to answer this question, long before their change is sprung on anyone else. This fact is often forgotten by people driving changes in an organization. People need time to understand the answer to this question, before they can move beyond and start to answer all of the other questions that your change may bring.

About the selfishness question…Your dad was just diagnosed with cancer and your first question (to yourself) is, “How will this affect me?” Does this make you selfish? That all depends on your second question (the one you say out loud).

Questions or Answers?

Which is more valuable?  Questions or answers?

Here are some answers:  3.14, George Washington, The Wright Brothers, Sir Isaac Newton, 1861-1865, 1776, to get to the other side, 3, Neil Armstrong, Ron Burgundy, vanilla, Elvis Presley.

Without knowing the questions, these answers are merely a list of data points…informational debris to be swept away by our next thought.

Children generally ask lots of questions.  “Why?” comes to mind.

An interesting thing happens to children as they move through elementary, middle, and then high school.  They are asked to provide lots of answers.  What is the square root of 81?  What’s the capital of North Dakota?  What position do you play on the soccer team?  What differentiates plant cells from animal cells?  What are you going to be when you grow up?

This continues in college.  Students take a roster of classes for a semester (or quarter).  They display their mastery by providing the correct answers to questions on a series of mid-term and final exams.

We’re told that there are no dumb questions…only those that aren’t asked.  But, after a lifetime of answering mundane questions from others, is it any wonder that many people have fallen out of practice, or are afraid, when it comes to asking real questions?

The answer my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.  The answer is blowin’ in the wind. –Bob Dylan