Sunday, June 30, 2013

They Want a Sentence and No More

The following article was written by professional writer, noted author and speaker, Monica Vest Wheeler, and originally posted on her blog. She has given me permission to reproduce it here on this blog. Monica's blog is titled "Turning empathy into action" and can be reached using this link:  

She mostly writes about many different types of brain injuries and diseases, such as Alzheimer's, and occasionally writes one about stroke. She has published numerous books. According to her blog heading, Monica "...explores how we can lift ourselves and others by turning empathy into action … and the importance of the art of compassion in dealing with Alzheimer's, stroke, brain injuries and other life challenges." Monica is best known for her work on the Help ME Cope & Survive book series:

Monica is also a very active volunteer for Retreat & Refresh Stroke Camp and arguably our best camp photographer. 

I hope you enjoy her writing and visit her blog. And be sure to browse her archived articles, too.

by Monica Vest Wheeler

Stroke: “They want a sentence and no more”
In recent weeks, I've immersed myself in the heavy editing stage of my new book on coping with strokes. I can hear the voices of all the survivors and caregivers with whom I've interacted. I can see their expressive eyes revealing the tragedy of this brutal brain attack, and the joy of conquering challenges that the rest of us take for granted. I keep reading certain passages as I relive those moments when their hearts overflowed with sorrow or their souls wept with pain at how stroke has decimated their world.

I'll always remember the wife who spoke for her husband, who sat in silence next to her. He fully understood every word she confessed, though he could not convey them himself because of severe aphasia that had robbed him of his ability to speak more than a few words or engage in plain old conversations. I had asked her what she wanted the world to know about strokes. And she told it like it is:

“I want people to be more understanding. I have girlfriends, we don’t have couples. They think you can just pick up and go, but you can’t. I also find, too, that they don’t want me to talk about it. They’ll ask, ’How’s Al?’ They want a sentence and no more. That hurts so much. I’ll listen to what they have to say, but they don’t want to hear what I have to say. I’ve gotten to the point where, ’He’s fine.’ ”

My heart aches every time I revisit those words. It's a cry for one of the most basic human interactions, the act of being heard. We need to talk. We need to listen. It's a continuous circle of communication that educates and engages us in everyday life.

So many individuals have taught me the beauty of the art of listening. It takes patience and time, but it is worth every second because it enriches your mind and soul. If we truly want to be heard, we must take our turn at listening. How else will we know what to ask and answer?

If you're going to ask somebody, "How are you doing?" then say it like you mean it, and be prepared to hear their response. I've met the most fascinating strangers that way, and now they're my friends. When I ask, I mean it because I know the answer will enlighten, educate and/or entertain me.

All stroke survivors and caregivers ask is that you give them the precious gift of a few minutes to find out how they're REALLY doing. You might be the one who transforms their day in a positive way and lifts your own at the same time.

I'll end with the famous welcoming words of TV's Frasier Crane, "Hello, I'm listening …"

Monica Vest Wheeler
Turning Empathy into Action
Find me now on Facebook
And on Twitter
Phone 1-309-682-8851
Phone toll-free 1-877-267-4640
Fax toll-free 1-877-636-0634
P.O. Box 276
Peoria, IL 61650-0276

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