Asking the Second Question During the Holidays

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The recent passing of acclaimed menswear designer Virgil Abloh, artistic director for Louis Vuitton and founder/CEO of Off-White, appeared to have caught many people—especially many who was in his circle of friends, off-guard. The guy was only 41 years old, married with two children. His death was unrelated to COVID—he had cancer and passed away because of it.

It was, interesting that from the time it was announced he had died, several notable people were posting recent pictures with him on Instagram. And most of the captions I read, stated in one way or another, how they were shocked by the news. Not too long ago we received similar news about Chadwick Boseman, and like Virgil Abloh, he was only 41 as well and dying from cancer. I recall seeing pictures of Chadwick Boseman on social media a few months before his passing. It was quite noticeable how much weight he had lost, and I wondered if he was sick. Then I thought to myself, “He’s probably losing weight for an upcoming film. I imagine he’s got to be pretty lean to fit into that skintight Black Panther outfit!” 

Boy, was I ever wrong with my assessment. 

Then I saw a video clip of an interview with Ryan Coogler, co-writer of the Black Panther screenplay, and its director. As most people imagined, we, the public, found out about Mr. Boseman’s death through the media, but certainly, his circle of family and friends and key people in the movie industry knew—along with Ryan Coogler—who not only worked very closely with him, but they were close friends. Certainly, Ryan Coogler knew. Right?


In the video interview, he made it clear that he had NO IDEA that Mr. Boseman was terminally ill. That’s right—he found out about his passing when it was announced publicly. Then it comes out that he kept it secret from everyone and still showed up for work being the diligent and hard-working actor that he’s always known to be. No one appears to have known how sick Mr. Boseman truly with exception of his immediate family.

This makes me wonder…

How could someone be suffering and dying from cancer and close friends and co-workers NOT know about it, particularly people you’re in contact with daily? How does this happen? How is it that Mr. Abloh dies of cancer and all these people he works with and hung out with him did not suspect anything?

Here’s the point I’m driving at…

We are embarking upon another holiday season, and I see the post-Black Friday rat race participants everywhere, along with pine trees tied atop of many vehicles rolling down the highway. And you know people are spending money they don’t have to buy gifts out of obligation rather than inspiration.

Do I sound a bit jaded? My bad—my trauma is oozing out right now. I digress. Back to my point.

We all already know people are emotionally vulnerable around the holidays. Some people with the highest dating standards will settle for temporary situationships to avoid being alone during this time of year. You don’t need a bunch of statistics thrown at you to make you aware of how lonely and depressed some people can be during the holiday season.

I’m clear that we all have a lot going on in our lives, and much of what is going on we keep out of the reach of not only the external public but even some who are close to us. I once heard someone say that people typically fake being OK—not troubled. And if that’s true, to know what’s going on with someone, we must want to know. This means not to say to yourself, “Shoot—I have enough going on in my life to be concerned about someone else’s!” It means that we should consider asking the second question.

What is, “The Second Question?” Glad you asked…here’s an example of, “The Second Question.”

“Hey—how are you doing today?”

“I’m doing very well! Thanks for asking.”

“Wait—how are you REALLY doing?”

That’s the second question.

We tend to ask how people are doing as a greeting and not really to learn what’s going on with them. We are all guilty of it. And if some of us are honest, we truly do not want to know the challenges other people may have—even if it’s something that we can assist with. But just think—if we all became a bit more interested in people we are around or close to—beyond the surface—think about the impact that could be made. 

If everyone asked The Second Question, maybe we could have an opportunity to support someone with friendship and love before they die of terminal cancer.

So, this year, for Christmas, instead of asking for your favorite gift, make it a point to ask one of your closest friends, “Tell me—how are you REALLY doing?”


Picture Courtesy of @blackrevolutioncouples

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