March 21, 2010
Honor Thy Father and Mother

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I am an innovation consultant. But I am also a son -- or at least was a son.

My last remaining parent, my father, died on July 14th, at 94. During the last days of his life, it became clear to me that there was a lot about his life I had no clue about. Not just information about our ancestors, but what really made him tick -- his dreams, his fondest memories, and what wisdom he was leaving behind for the next generation.

As a professional facilitator of "human process," I thought it would be easy to get him to talk about this stuff. It wasn't. My questions drew blank stares or a quick change of topic. Then my sister handed me the book she'd been writing, Window to My World, and everything changed.

What she had done was create a very accessible "fill in the blanks" book for seniors -- a way for them to reflect on their life and capture the essence for those of us they were leaving behind.

I spent hours sitting with him, asking him questions I had never had the courage -- or opening -- to ask -- everything from the names of his favorite teachers to his reflections on the meaning of life. He spoke. I wrote. And we both laughed and marveled.

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The time I spent with him doing this served another valuable purpose. It shifted his attention from fear, doubt, and worry to insight, wisdom, and love -- a BIG shift for a 94-year old man afraid of dying.

If your parents are still alive, I know they're aging. And I also know there will be a time when you will be sitting with them in a room, surrounded by pills and creams, and all the other flora and fauna of a person's last days. There will be a moment when you want to shift the conversation to something deeper, but want to do it in a way that's user friendly.

Window to My World is that way.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at March 21, 2010 08:15 AM

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