I had a family member who was diagnosed with a terminal condition. I thought about writing a letter to him and sharing the things I loved about him and the influence he was in my life and then I never did write or send it. I regret that decision. I thought I would have more time. After he passed, I promised myself I would never let that happen again.
Why is it hard for us to say what is in our hearts? We think, “They know I love them”, or “I tell them I love them before I hang up the phone”. Do they really know? Have you taken the time to tell them what it is you love about them? Have you told them the ways you appreciate how they have made an impact on your life?
As we transition through the ups and downs of these past several weeks, have you thought about the people in your life that mean the most to you? I hear it in the voices of family members calling for updates, or saying goodbyes in ways they would never imagine. I’ve seen it over the years as family members at the bedside whisper in the ear of the patient when the patient can’t reply.
Before my friend died in 2009, we were able to have an open conversation about the things we loved about each other and how grateful we were for each other. It meant a lot to her to have that conversation while she could hear it and take that in and know the influence she had in my life. In my experiences in critical care over 34 years, people want to know the difference they have made in the lives of others. They want to talk about and remember the parts of our lives that were touched by their presence.
What a gift it is to give someone! No strings attached. Here is what you mean to me. Here is why I love you. Here is just one of the many reasons your presence on this earth made a difference. Your life was worthwhile and you are special to me.
There are ways to do this besides a face to face conversation for those of us who are shy-at-heart. You can send a thoughtful card or write a letter from your heart. You can send a gift that represents some aspect of your relationship or you can record a message or video and send it to the person. I doubt anyone wants to leave this earth without knowing they made a difference. That their existence was witnessed by someone and it was appreciated. That they were loved so dearly and appreciated more than they know.
Tell ‘em you love ‘em and tell them why. They might just tell you the same. They might already know. And that’s a gift of a lifetime no one can ever replace.
“The regret of my life is that I have not said ‘I love you’ often enough.” – Yoko Ono