When my mother died I did not see it coming. I suppose it’s commonly that way with death, but when I was awakened by the ringing phone and my dad said grimly, “you need to come home now,” that was the furthest thing from my mind. She was only 54 years old for goodness sake, and even though that may have seemed old when I was a teenager, now that I’m a sneeze from forty it’s super young. She had suffered through a debilitating car wreck that had left her with traumatic brain injury, but for ten years she had gotten past her setbacks and healed in miraculous ways. Despite her seizures and memory loss, we always thought she’d live forever, and it’s because of that I never imaged one night I would say goodbye and it would be the last one.
I think that’s always bothered me. The last time I had seen her was for a small birthday dinner in her honor, and I can still hazily recall giving her a hug before I left to go back home. She had been in her recliner, covered up with the new, leopard-print blanket she had just unwrapped from me. I had kissed her cheek nonchalantly, said I love you, and hurried on my way. Had I known it would be our last encounter here on earth I would have savored it more. I would have memorized more deeply the way her auburn hair picked up the lamp light, or how her lips took on a thin, upturned smirk whenever she looked at me. I can barely see it now, like it’s a fading memory. I know I would have lingered longer, had I known.
I remember her saying, “do you have to go so soon?”
And though I probably didn’t I had replied, “yeah, I better head on home.”
If I had known that would be our last conversation I would have said something more impactful. I would have told her all the things I thought, but typically never said. Things like “you’re my hero,” or “I can never repay you for the many things you gave up to make life better for me.” But I didn’t.
Yesterday I was having a text conversation with my husband like we commonly do when I’m home and he is at work. I like to send him photos and videos of the children, and it was after just such a video of his six year old reading that he sent me something I least expected at that moment. We were talking kids, phonics, and the challenges of learning to read when out of left field this came across my screen.
I love my family so very much. I would die for any of you without hesitation, you guys are the greatest gift God could have ever given me.
When I read it the words caught me off guard. They didn’t have anything to do specifically with first grade readers, but then my heart overflowed with emotion. I was touched by how much he loved us, and I was even more impacted by the fact that he felt it, thought it, and then made a point to say it right then and there.
We are not promised another single moment with the people that we hold so dear, and because of that we have to take the time and initiative to speak the love we feel. It’s easy to know you love someone and to assume they know how much. In fact, I do know how much my husband loves me, but there’s just something about receiving those words. It’s a salve to the soul.
In the past I was the type of person who thought things, but didn’t always say them. I might think a good friend looked especially beautiful on a given day. I would think it, but I seldom opened my mouth and gave the compliment. I had to come to a place where I realized people need to hear the love we feel. They need to know it by our actions, yes, but also hear it from our mouths. We want to be sure that we speak just how special someone is to us, and certainly not have regret over the things we did not say.
Sometimes when my husband leaves for work in the morning I will be mesmerized by my coffee and still in that groggy haze. I’ll kiss him goodbye, say, “have a good day,” but then become overwhelmed by the need to run and catch him before he goes out the door. I’ll go to him and really hug him. I’ll take the time for him to feel my love through my embrace, and he’ll see it in my eyes when I gaze into his while whispering, “I’ll miss you. I love you so much.”
He knows that, but I know he likes to hear it again. And I enjoy saying it.