I was aware that I was holding my breath. The middle-aged daughter of the hospice patient had just asked an important question, and I suspected that she did not know the answer.
Although I was seated behind a video camera just a few feet away from the daughter and the patient, who was on the cusp of entering her tenth decade of life, I had become invisible to them as they engaged in a conversation about Mary's (as I shall call the patient) life.
Over the past hour, they had discussed Mary's parents and siblings. She told her daughter about the death of her father, which required that they move in with other family members during difficult financial times.
They talked about how children and teenagers entertained themselves during the Great Depression, about what dating was like during the 1930s and 40s.
Mary recounted life in Detroit during World War II and what it was like when family members and other veterans returned home.
"I haven't thought about some of these things in such a long time," Mary concluded. "It was such a different world."
As the conversation neared its end, the daughter asked Mary how she wanted to be remembered.
"As a loving mother," Mary said.
What life lessons did Mary wish to share with her grandchildren, the daughter wondered? That's when I found myself holding my breath.
After a moment's hesitation, Mary said, "I've come to the conclusion that you had better show kids how to live by living that way yourself and then talking about it. You say, 'That isn't the way we do it in our household, this is the way we do it.' There will be no lies in our family. You always tell the truth."
What life lessons do you offer to family members and friends?
This blog entry was written by Dennis Sparks, Arbor Hospice Volunteer. You may contact Dennis by commenting below or emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.