Have You Said "I Love You" Today?
I recently heard someone talking; she had lost a loved one and she was saying, “if only I had told him this,” and “why didn’t I do this for him?” and “why didn’t I spend more time with him?” and I thought about the number of times over my lifetime that I have heard those laments from people who had lost someone, and it again reminded me of how we all take tomorrow for granted. There will always be time to say I love you, right? There will always be time to visit and write that special letter and do that little act of love, right? And then when death happens we feel the remorse of not having done those things we thought we had time to do. There is a very simple solution.
Do those things now…make your loved ones your number one priority each and every day. The first thing you do each day is tell them you love them; show them little acts of love. Leave them notes, little gifts, smile often, laugh with them, hold them, be their visible and tangible means of emotional support always…do not waste another day!
ATTENDING THE SCHOOL OF LIFE
The first time this lesson hit home for this man was when my father died. I was nineteen and happened to be home from college that weekend, and my dad died of a massive heart attack that Friday night. I held him while he died and I whispered over and over again that I loved him. He and I had not been talking much prior to his death. We had disagreed vehemently over the Vietnam War and our egos and pride would not allow either of us to knock down the walls and just be father and son. Want to talk about regret and remorse? I went into a depression so deep that I literally did not talk for several months; I wallowed in the grief of his loss, but more importantly I could not run away from the self-loathing for not having told him I loved him while he was alive, for being so mule-headed that I allowed my anger to push aside my true feelings for the man who had stood by me for nineteen years.
In the forty-odd years that have followed his death I have lost four people to suicide and countless others to natural death and though their deaths have never been easy for me to accept I have never had to regret not telling them how important they were to me. That is the one lesson I learned from that cold January night when my father died and it is a lesson I will not forget in my lifetime.
A NEW PLAN
So what do I do now? Each morning I send a message to loved ones telling them how important they are to me and how much I love them. I have, in fact, made love my number one focus during the day, and when I write about love I’m writing about unconditional love. I don’t expect anything in return; I don’t keep score of how many times they tell me that they love me. I’m not an accountant who keeps a ledger of the number of love proclamations but rather a human being who has finally figured out that love is the single most important thing in life.
My sponsor in Alcoholics Anonymous died two years ago. He had been experiencing heart problems for some time and finally was admitted to the hospital where he knew he would be dying soon. I visited him the day before he died and the happiness he showed when I walked into his room was indescribable. He weakly held my hand and told me how honored he was that I would spend those last minutes with him. He was honored? Here was a man who had unselfishly helped me for years, guided me through some very dark hours and gave of himself completely, and he was honored that I would spend time with him as he was dying. Can you say humbling? He told me that he was proud of me and that he loved me. I left his room that night understanding even more the true meaning of and importance of love.
Love should be the guiding light of our existence.
Why is this such a difficult concept for people to grasp? Couples when they marry speak the vow of undying and everlasting love but invariably get caught up in everyday living and neglect acts of love that mean so much. Friends all too often speak of getting together soon but always seem to be too busy to make it happen, and yet when someone dies we feel regret for not having spent more time with them. It truly is insanity of the highest order and if you think that is overstating the point then love isn’t a priority in your life, plain and simple.
Strip away all the window-dressing in life and it all comes down to the fact that we all need love.
When I was born I was put up for adoption and spent the first nine months of my life in foster care. I remained blind for those nine months and doctors said I suffered from “Failure To Thrive Syndrome.” In other words, lacking love and nurturing I failed to progress and develop physically and emotionally as children did who experienced love during those same crucial months. After nine months I was adopted by loving parents and my sight came within a week of the adoption. Was that purely coincidental? I think not! When presented with love I thrived; in the absence of love I stagnated.
One of my favorite things to do is watch mothers at a park with their children. The outpouring of love is a beautiful thing to witness. The faces of those mothers radiate love and the smiles on the faces of their children are indescribable, but it is not just children who need that outpouring of love. Each of us does, whether we are married, single, young, old, healthy or infirmed. Presented with love in our lives, we all feel that we are not alone, that we have a safe place, that we are understood and valued. Without that love we all suffer from “Failure To Thrive Syndrome” and we will become stunted emotionally.
A LESSON LEARNED AND APPRECIATED
A few months ago I helped a friend take her mother, who suffers from Alzheimer’s, to a doctor’s appointment. I was helping the mother, Barbara, out of the car and I had her put her arms around my neck as I lifted her out of the car and into her wheelchair. In return for my efforts I was rewarded with a smile that melted my heart. Because of her illness Barbara had no idea who I was nor would she remember that particular activity the next day, but at that moment she recognized the compassion of another human being and she experienced happiness. As I write about that experience my eyes are misting over in true appreciation that I had the opportunity to help Barbara and in return receive the only gift she was capable of giving, namely love.
Moments like that are what life should be all about, human beings being human. Loving is the most natural emotion that we have unlike anger which is instilled in us as life progresses. We are quite literally loving machines but without the proper lubrication, without constant acts of love, our machine begins to falter and will eventually cease to function.
ALL WE NEED IS LOVE
Simplistic? Were The Beatles full of it that afternoon when they recorded that song? The pragmatists among you will say that I need to get real, that there are bills to pay, jobs to work, responsibilities to meet, business meetings to attend, errands and chores and the list is endless. When is there time to make love a priority? Besides, you will say, you do all of that other stuff to provide for the family you love so isn’t that making love a priority?
QUESTIONS TO PONDER
I don’t know, is it? Only you can answer that question. I know this for a fact: If other events and duties are preventing me from spending quality time with loved ones then I need to look at my priorities. I have posed these questions before but they are worth repeating: what is more important, working harder to provide a bigger home for your family or spending more time with your family? What is more important, your weekly poker game with the buddies or taking a walk with your child? What is more important, working harder to buy more toys for the family or actually having the time to be a family?
The list of such questions is endless and we make similar choices each and every day of our lives; there always seems to be something that prevents us from just being a loving being.
Time is running out on all of us. The hourglass is slowly losing the sand of our lives and if you haven’t said I love you today then you are in danger of losing what may be your last opportunity to do so….and that would be a tragedy for a loving human being.