Years ago I wrote my PhD about the importance of listening to people with dementia who were still able to speak. In the process of turning the thesis into a book for publication, I began to realize the importance of listening in general. At the time, Ming was a little kid and Anthony wasn’t so ill, so I would listen to Ming’s babble and Anthony’s hearty stories with equal attention.
Listening is not always easy because sometimes what you are hearing may not make sense, might be boring or inane or moany, could be longwinded and require patience.
To listen, you have to be able to shut up for awhile, give your own voice a break, and focus on the person you are listening to.
Yesterday, after my altercation with Ming, he broke down and begged me to listen to him and I remembered, with a thud of remorse, that he had been asking me this for some time.
So we sat down together, cried our eyes out in separate chairs and then he began the story of his 3 days away at the Southbound concert festival.
As I listened, I saw how his face glowed in the telling of each episode. After two hours, we were laughing again and I asked for an intermission. “That’s okay, Mum, we can do Episode 3 tomorrow.”
I am beginning to think that the best gift you can give anyone is to listen to them.