By Stephanie Spillmann 4/15/17


Ask People Better Questions


pink flowers in glow of sunset


It’s What’s Inside that Counts


​​I was reminded today that with the passing of each loved one lost, along with their spirits go their thoughts, memories, ideas, and words. The sand passing through the hourglass of their days is stopped by some tiny stone that cannot get through. What is left in that sand at the top that didn’t pass? My heart longs to know.


Why are we so consumed with what people do, what they will do, and what accomplishments they have to show, like so many feathers in a cap? What of the dreams in their heart? The thoughts they hold dear?  Hopes and fears that teeter like an unwieldy see-saw are alive and well inside their souls, but do we ask? It’s time we ask people better questions.


sisters grabbing hands in the sun

Photo credit: Sarah Moore


This country is predisposed to focus on externals and staying busy, and what productive tasks can you, will you, have you done today.


When my brilliant daughter died almost two years ago, we lost her precious physical being as well as a trove of gleaming treasures in her mind that would put the Crown Jewels to shame.


​What was in there?  And did we know enough?  I am convinced that we can never know enough of what is quietly abiding inside of those we love. Yet this is the essence of who they are — who we are.


​We can strive to make a purposeful effort to tap into a small bit of what makes and breaks their world.


Do you know how your kids feel about this world and what their biggest worries are? Are you aware of what they find most funny about humanity or what inspires them in life?  Have you studied them like a much-loved book that is tattered from the yearly reading?


Open story book with dog, girl and umbrella, and birds.


Why do they choose the friends they have? What do they like most about them, their family, about you?  What would they change if they could — about themselves and about their daily life?


What about their fears — what are they — where did they start, how? To know someone inside is the best gift we have to offer.  It says that we hold sacred who they are at their core, and not what they can do, what they will ever do.


If we wait until others do enough and become enough before we ask the important questions, we are the ones who lose.Whatever one is doing presently IS enough.  It’s enough to make them worthy of befriending and knowing.


We can ask different questions. Yes, even the people we’ve just met or ones we’re just getting to know.  What are some of your favorite things? What are you passionate about? ​If you could do anything, what would it be?


It would feel different to ask such things, yes — but wouldn’t it ultimately be refreshing to have someone tell you who they are instead of what they do?


My daughter loved like this. She knew who we were and stored those things in her heart. They were important to her.


I saw it in the cards she made for us. The one for her older sister’s 21st birthday was filled with 21 things about that loved sister. Little things — personal things — funny things. It made me cry and I’m sure it made my oldest cry. We all long to be known.​​



Here is the last card she ever made for me. She died the next month. She knew me, too.


Everything on this card says love, and it says that I know you and value you. She acknowledged my all-too-fervent love of cats and my favorite color yellow.


The sunflower and cup of coffee, even my bed quilt, tell who I am and what makes my heart sing.




“To love someone is to learn the song in their heart and sing it to them when they have forgotten it.”   Arne Garborg​


​I will honor my daughter by trying to love this way…with genuine interest in the souls of others.

Make your life a little richer by not wasting time on the stupid stuff. Time stops when you least expect it.

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