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Started by Tian
12 Dec 2011, 4:00 PM

I was struck by an article I just read in the New York Times about the importance of listening. The Art of Listening

A man died during the night before he could complete an amazing story when he was young to a visitor. And it was remarked "That's not a good way to die -- before you've told the end of your story."

We should strive to give people the opportunity to complete their story.

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Reply by Serena_1
13 Dec 2011, 12:54 AM

Thanks Tian for such an interesting article and for giving us a chance to reflect on what it means to “listen” to someone.

There are so many different ways to listen to someone, especially at the end of life. When the voice weakens, body language, facial expressions and sometimes silence all become so much more important.

I remember reading and loving a very insightful book on this topic, a long time ago, called: Final Gifts: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs, and Communications of the Dying by Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelley and I strongly recommend it.

Has anyone else read it?

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Reply by Plum1
15 Dec 2011, 1:19 AM

Dear Tian,

Yes, I agree that listening to the story of another at any time of life is so important, but especially when someone has a limited time left in which to share. A life story, with all its little details of place, actions, feelings, is so precious. Just reflecting back takes a person further into the story, and maybe even brings new insight or retrieves a memory forgotten. I sometimes forget to offer that simple feedback when listening, but when I do it, I am always amazed at the richness which pours forth.

Have others had such an experience?

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Reply by Marcia Molinaro
22 Mar 2012, 12:13 AM

The first step for a good communication is learn to listen...and Communication is a important tool, for everybody
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Reply by Brayden
24 Mar 2012, 12:36 AM

I have learned from my experience with many end of life companions, that listening is the most important care that we can bring. It is not just the words we use to gently respond to the listener but what I call listening with the heart. I try to pick up the emotions that are behind the words or whispers and affirm those with them. This usually brings out their deepest feelings. I have also had awesome communications with patients that could not speak but I just listened to the soul speak as we held hands. Great experiences.
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Reply by Cath1
24 Mar 2012, 1:03 AM

Beatifully written post, Brayden! Thank you for sharing.

Thank you Marcia for reminding us about the importance of listening to those whom are dying as their hearts speak even when words fail them and us. 

I can relate to the silent communication of the soul, as this happened between my Mom and I when she was dying. When one listens to a loved one nearing death, it is powerful and unforgettable.

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Reply by Tian
28 Mar 2012, 11:58 AM

The article I originally cited states, "In Africa listening is a guiding principle. It’s a principle that’s been lost in the constant chatter of the Western world..." I think the importance of listening to a person who is dying cannot be overestimated. But when they are unable to speak we might consider that what we hear may be ourselves, our own chatter. In my own experience as a palliative care ward volunteer, when I hold a patient's hand as they take their last breaths, I hear only their breathing. But I hope that I am transmitting to them our shared humanity, that they are not alone and that in time I will be taking the same journey. It has been the ultimate privilege.

And I hope that somebody was able to listen to the patient's story.
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Reply by KathCull_admin
26 Jan 2014, 2:33 AM

I know it has been some time since a post has been written on this thread but I was intrigued by a couple of things:
1. Listening -  such an art and a skill.  Sometimes it is easier to fill the silence with words rather than presence. Thanks to you all for your thoughtful and thought provoking comments.
2. You cannot judge an author by his books - I have read several books by the author, Henning Mankaell, all mysteries.  I would not have thought this article would align with this author. "Many words will be written on the wind and the sand, or end up in some obscure digital vault. But the storytelling will go on until the last human being stops listening." 

A good reminder for me to listen and know that people are complex beings - made up of lots of different parts.

Take care all
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