Challenging Life? Remembrance and Realized Regret Are Why You Should Tell Your Beloved: “I Love You.”
Some thoughts on what you will think and feel when it’s too late to speak
Love is like the sky, it’s there when we don’t even notice
It was my late mother’s birthday the other day.
“I love you mother.”
Now that you are dead and gone, and it is too late to tell you how very much, I just want to say it out loud. But, to whom?
I lay awake sometimes, thinking of all the things I wish we had talked about.
Maybe in writing this, somehow the words can go from my heart, through my muddy mire of mind, through to keyboard, then a screen. Once on a stranger’s screen, the thought of telling someone they are loved will filter through into someone’s voice. Then, although I may never see you again (No definitive heaven!), at least I will have the comfort of knowing a miracle has occurred.
And miracles are no small thing.
What could it benefit someone, if they knew they should speak their heart? I think there are as many answers are there are people. Nevertheless, mom, I think there are some categories that could and should be covered. There are things living people can say to living people that will make their lives fuller, and definitely more comforted, when their beloved is gone.
Paradise is a place
One of them is place.
I never met you until you moved to the Tacoma area, and bought the house on the hill because you and dad and my four older siblings had outgrown your first Tacoma house. But I never really thanked you for picking out a childhood paradise. The babbling creek is full of tiny fish, crawdads, periwinkles, water striders, and ducks, over-cascaded by weeping willows and rustling cottonwoods. Now, I cannot see a willow gracefully bending over water without thinking of your wisdom. Then, there were the woods, fields, and meadows. That five acres set like a jewel among rural farms was a great choice, and you struggled to do it on a teacher’s salary!
There are also the places you spoke of, which I never took the time to have interest in. You began life in Vancouver, British Columbia, but I never asked enough questions. Why did grandpa go there? How did they obtain 500 acres in north central BC. It was the wilderness then. You told be about your brother John and you, as a toddler, threatened by a bear by the lake. He saved you both, why didn’t I at least pretend to wonder then, as I do now, what that was like? I visited the historic center a couple of years ago. We all laughed when I realized I was asking them “Where is the place with the bear and the lake?” Later, alone in my thoughts in the dark, though, the smoldering ache in my chest truly wanted to know. But, I never will.
Those are just two of the places. Then there are the times.
Our times are often difficult times
I think anyone who needs to tell a loved one that they are loved needs to speak of “our times.”
You grew up in a world with low enough numbers of people, that you could see woods and wildness almost in any direction. You grew up shortly after the Great Depression. Your parents were divided by its constant hunger, and seeking of livelihood and work. Your dad died young, (and mysteriously — he disappeared, no one knows how he died) and it was up to Gramma Mabel, you, and the three older boys to scrape together food and shelter upon migrant worker’s wages. You picked hops in Eastern Washington, and sometimes fruit. But I never thought to ask for one story about it.
We too, are going through hard times. But in rich, developed nations like the USA, the poorest of the poor are not without things. Our century, of course, has too many things. You can find shoes, and goods, and even food, just discarded because waste is the way of the modern world. If anything, too much trash and too little value has begun to destroy our present world with pandemic, prejudice, and climate crisis. You were all too aware, but we never talked about it. I think we should have, because now we who face disaster need to know how you accessed your strength, courage, and resilience. I love you for those things.
Time is a funny thing, mom. No matter how much goes by, I cannot picture you as someone who is not in my life. You were there to shelter and run to when as a small child I was just too geeky and weird to fit in.
Little things mean more than a lot
You read to me. You sang to me. You hiked with me. All the joy left in the world stemmed from your sharing the best things within it. In seemingly small ways you made the whole world worth taking on.
You were there for all the pain and loss of my older brothers’ tribulations. You folded more and more in on yourself as each died in turn. You tried to be there when I went through my heartbreak when my bestie Matt died, and when I was divorced. You weren’t really there for each miscarriage, because I was too ashamed to talk, but you were there for each surgery. You helped when I married Sam, celebrating our special day along with your own fifty-year anniversary. You were there when I needed to finish graduate school, and find a career and a place in Hawaii.
In addition to time and place, I would advise anyone who loves someone, to consider stories about both. All the stories you did share I cherish. I love you for that. But for all of the thousands of stories I dismissed, I yearn now to know. I was too caught up in the tangled threads of my own life, and I ignored a lot of your life lessons. I rejected wonder, and wisdom, and world coping mechanisms.
Talk about the tough stuff
Even when you broke your back and decided to just “tough it out” everyone kept trying to alleviate your pain. You fought the pain management and physical therapy. It’s because of your past resilience and strength.
You knew what got you through death, disaster, poverty and more. It was not chemical potions. It was sheer grit.
For this, I both loved and hated you! You were so gosh darn determined to just tough it out that it made the rest of the family — who don’t share your style of steel — upset and divided. Most wanted to just allow you to “end your misery.”
I desperately needed to know your side of the story. I never will, I guess.
While they continued to up your dosage toward lethal, I knew it would be excruciating for me. And it was.
As you slipped away into the foggy overdose of pain-killers, I began to realize that I would never speak to you again. I began, in my own fog, to feel anger, and even resentment. Why, I wondered didn’t you demand to tell your stories — say your goodbyes — before they put you in the mist of medically induced coma?
Why, especially why, am I the only one to feel it was a betrayal to everything you ever were, and are to me, still?
All these years later, of course, I know the answer. It was because you and I are the same. We don’t appreciate the well-intentioned motives of either our benefactors or murderers. We think that autonomy, liberty and self-love, are linked.
With you and I, mother, they are linked through powerful love. It was not just your blue eyes, or red hair, or Irish temperament that I see in the mirror, it is your extreme determination. All I have to do now is survive one End Times day at a time knowing that maybe I can still tell you that I love you, if I just keep telling myself that I am loved.
Maybe, just maybe, also, someone out there will realize they need to share more with a loved one. If just one person shares one second of compassion, courage, and enlightenment, our whole world is better by one degree.
And to me, that one degree, if felt in this world, is the only heaven of which we can be absolutely certain.