Two years ago, I was sitting in the ICU, holding the hand of my boyfriend’s best friend. His hand was warm, his skin smooth. I couldn’t take my eyes off of how seemingly healthy his body looked. He was hooked up to so many machines it was hard to tell where they stopped and where his body began. I had no idea what most of them did. All I knew was that they were most likely what was keeping this young man, not even 30 years old, alive.
He was the father to a beautiful young daughter, the son to a mother, the brother to a sister who would not give up on him and the best friend of a man who believed in him. He had just been in a terrible car accident that left him with a severe head injury. He wasn’t going to live and everyone knew it.
The next few days were a struggle for everyone. What happened? How did this happen? Why did this happen? Friends and family flocked to tell him how much they loved him, what he meant to them and to say their final goodbyes. If loved ones couldn’t make it to the hospital, we called them, using speakerphone so they could speak to him. Incoherent as he was, I’m not sure whether he could hear those words or not. I like to think that he did. These moments were both beautiful and extremely painful to witness.
Everyone was hoping for a miracle. It never came. He passed away on my birthday.
That week changed me. I made a promise to myself that I would make sure everyone in my life knew how I felt about them. They would know the impact they had on my life. They would know I loved them.
My reasoning was this: if I should pass away suddenly, those closest to me would know exactly how I felt. How deeply I cared for them. And on the flipside, if they should suddenly leave my life for whatever reason — whether death or a breakup — I would be left knowing I had said everything I could. I wouldn’t regret not saying everything I wanted to. It was a lesson I swore to take with me for the rest of my life.
For a long time, I did just that. I made phone calls, sent emails basically reciting the love letter I had written for each and every one of those people. I wasn’t going to forget. If my boyfriend and I had a fight, no matter how angry or upset I felt, I made sure to say “I love you” … just in case. He affectionately referred to it as “love overkill.”
Eventually that relationship ended and I began the next chapter in my life. I found a new place to live, added a great second job, new hobbies and passions, dated and suddenly I found myself “very busy.” Little by little, I noticed those “I love you” calls and emails going out less and less. It wasn’t that I didn’t feel those things, I just wasn’t letting anyone know I was telling myself things like, “I’m too busy … I’ll call them later.” Even writing those words seem cold to me. But I really believed them … in a way.
How many of us take for granted that tomorrow will come and that a particular person will always be in our lives? How many of us walk around punishing ourselves, asking, “What if I’d just said what I always wanted to say? Did he know how much I loved him? Why didn’t I tell her every day?”
What is stopping those of us who are not saying “I love you” from doing so? What’s in the way? What’s stopping us from saying things like, “I really appreciate that you’re in my life.” “You mean the world to me.” “When I’m with you, I’m always smiling.” “I love you.” I can honestly say I don’t have an answer for myself. This embarrasses me quite a bit.
I’m recommitting to that promise I made a few years ago. I will make those calls that I used to make. I will write those emails I used to send. I invite anyone who reads this to do the same. We don’t even have to say very much. Who doesn’t like to hear how much they’re loved and how special they are? Let’s bestow that gift upon those we love.
As I write this, I pick up the phone and dial my 95-year-old grandfather. He is very hard of hearing. I struggle through a conversation with him, practically shouting to get my point across, even if that point is just, “I’m fine, thanks. How are you?” The important thing is, the part I wanted him to hear, he did. It was simple. He heard, “I love you” and with that, I knew his day was made.
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