I met with the family of a woman who had died unexpectedly: her siblings, in laws, adult children and their partners, and grandchildren. They laughed and cried as we told stories together. It hadn’t been an easy family life with alcohol and partying being a strong theme, and none of them had seen their Mum in the last few months, so I didn’t pick up that one of the sons had been estranged for a longer period. They were each keen to write tributes and I said if they needed a hand to get started they could call me.
One evening, I received a call from the youngest son. He was distressed and he told me he didn’t know where to start. I asked open-ended questions and took notes. Then I found out it had been a few years since he last saw his mum as he had wanted to create a different life. He had regrets.
I wrote a draft which I read to him. The first part included stories from growing up, fishing, partying as a teen…
…I know I was pretty hard work as a kid, it could have been easier. I left home when I was 15 and Mum wasn’t well at that time. I am disappointed that I haven’t been around mum for the last few years. I was sad that Mum didn’t come out to live near us; and I want to say I’m sorry for not being the greatest son. I know you worried about me, and wanted the best for me. I would like to think that you would be proud of the man I have become. We will all miss you Mum. I love you Mum.
He cried when I got to the part above and he was very grateful.
Listen well, breathe, ask open ended questions, don’t try to fix anything… just listen. It is an art to find the words that ring true for each person, each story, each expression of mourning. The tribute above is mostly the young man’s words that I have crafted together.