Nearly two years ago (September 2014) I attended Marge's funeral. Marge was my aunt's husband's mother. Everyone called her Marge. Even her children and grandchildren. This isn't a post about Marge, but about something the minister said at her funeral that has stuck with me 21 months later. He charged all of us "to be the last stop."
What does it mean to be the last stop? As Marge aged she was in hospice care in an assisted living facility. This care allowed her children and grandchildren to visit more with Marge, and not have to also take care of her medical needs. Her home health care worker, Tammy, said she saved Marge to be her last stop each day because she knew when she visited Marge while helping Marge, she would end up feeling uplifted. Hospice care can be very rewarding, but it can also be very draining and demanding. Marge made sure those around her left feeling good about themselves, better than they felt before they saw her.
How can I be the last stop for someone? Yesterday I met with a pastor and spiritual adviser. What we talk about is confidential, but I don't think I'm breaking any rules by sharing a comment he made to me at the end. He said he thought I helped him more than he helped me. That is a good feeling to have.
Earlier today a friend asked a question: filet mignon or lobster for dinner? It was a metaphor for which job to take. When she emailed me from across the globe she left me with the impression she values me as a sounding board, and respects I won't make the decision for her. It felt great connecting with a friend as I was waking up for the day, and she was getting ready for bed.
Being the last stop means being someone people WANT to spend time with, even if they HAVE to spend time with you. Listen to people. Participate in the conversation. Don't do all the talking.
I can't tell you the number of times I have been with people and left drained because they just talked about their own problems, and suddenly ran out time before I could talk about what was on my mind. Granted, sometimes people do need to vent (believe me, there are times I just need to vent), but when there is a pattern of one-sidedness, recognize they are not last stop kinds of friends. In some cases, they might not even be friends.
I know I have a tendency to talk to much. I am working on listening more, but not so much that people feel they were talking to a wall. The best kind of gatherings are when we both leave smiling and happier than when we started. The really good ones are when we make plans to see each other again.
As I strive to be the last stop, I also strive for friendships with others who feel the same way.