2022 - November - Gazette - What Really Matters

By: Jackie Naginey Hook
Saturday, November 19, 2022

What Really Matters

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” As we begin this holiday season, I invite all of us to contemplate these words from writer Annie Dillard. How do we want to spend our days and lives?

Recently, I gathered with a group of individuals whose loved ones had died. We talked about the grief journey and the participants shared their stories of loss. I offered ideas and suggestions for moving their grief from the inside to the outside. We closed by recognizing the other side of the grief coin – gratitude. Some of the things for which each person was grateful were: memories; commonality; sharing; finding who I am; meaning in the journey; children; the bittersweet; and, healing.

One of the questions grief asks us is, “What really matters?” The individuals in this grief education and support group were paying attention to what really matters and feeling grateful. I think spending our days and lives paying attention to what really matters is what so many of us desire. It helps us to live our lives more fully now.

But how do we determine what really matters? To help answer that question, Dr. Karen Wyatt, a hospice physician, wrote the book, What Really Matters: 7 Lessons for Living from the Stories of the Dying. As she cared for her dying patients, Wyatt saw many of them experience transformations that brought more meaning and purpose to their lives. She also heard many of them regret that they hadn’t learned these lessons earlier. Some patients even asked her to please share their wisdom with others. The result was her book with these seven lessons:

  • Suffering: Embrace Your Difficulties
  • Love: Let Your Heart Be Broken
  • Forgiveness: Hold No Resentments
  • Paradise: Dwell in the Present Moment
  • Purpose: Manifest Your Highest Potential
  • Surrender: Let Go of Expectations
  • Impermanence: Face Your Fear

These lessons are powerful and can take a lifetime to unravel. To begin, we can start to have conversations with our loved ones about what really matters. The holiday season offers us opportunities to do so. One opportunity is to “Have the Talk of a Lifetime.” Talks of a Lifetime are conversations about life stories, memories and what really matters. Topics include:

What personal event(s) have most shaped your life?

  • If you could travel back in time, to what era would you go? Why?
  • What does your perfect day look like?
  • What words of wisdom would you pass on to your childhood self?
  • Describe the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done.
  • Tell me three words that you feel best describe you.
  • Do you have a passion you wish you could pursue but haven’t yet?

These conversations help us learn things about ourselves and our loved ones. We can have them anytime, or on special days like Thanksgiving Day, National Day of Listening on November 25th and the National Giving Day on November 29th. For resources and more information on Having the Talk of a Lifetime, visit the Koch Funeral Home website.

And just as Annie Dillard suggested, spending our days over the holidays with what really matters can help us spend our lives that way. What more can we ask for?

To have additional conversations about what really matters, you are invited to the following upcoming grief and death education and support programs:

For more information, please visit the Bereavement Gatherings and Events page on the Koch Funeral Home website. To reserve your spot and receive the invitation links, email Jackie@JackieHook.com, call 814-237-2712 or visit the Koch Funeral Home Facebook page @kochFH.

Jackie Naginey Hook, MA, is a spiritual director, celebrant and end-of-life doula.  She coordinates the Helping Grieving Hearts Heal program through Koch Funeral Home in State College.  For more information, please call 814-237-2712 or visit www.kochfuneralhome.com.


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