Love Like You Mean It

Look them in the eye and tell them how much they matter to you. How much they light up your life. How lucky you are to have them in your life.

Love Like You Mean It
Photo by Element5 Digital / Unsplash

My partner tells me the news Wednesday morning. Our neighbor collapsed dead with a massive heart attack the night before. She was 53 and leaves behind two children and a loving husband. Sunday afternoon we’re at her house along with 100’s of people, dressed up and in her backyard. We’re there to honor her life.

My partner and I admired all the photo collages of her life. She was smiling or laughing in every single image. There were ones of her on her wedding day, holding her first child, and her in the arms of her husband.

Her life was cut short but she lived every minute of it.

Those photos captured just a small part of what a giant this woman was in her life. There were tears in everyone’s eyes as we told stories about her.

You can tell that she was loved by all and we all felt her love around us.

Her life was cut short but she lived every minute of it. She lived it full of joy, and love. What more could she have asked for? What more can we ask for?

After all what else is there for us but love and joy?

The briefcase

I was 25 years old and working late, it was 11 PM. I was the last one out of the office and walked down to the parking lot and toward my car. I saw a big black briefcase bag sitting in the middle of the parking lot. I picked it up and noticed it had a laptop in it.

This was 25 years ago so the laptop was this big clunky thing, but there was a business card inside with a name a number.

Someone dropped this bag by accident so I took it home with me. I called the number and left a message for the owner.

The next morning I got a callback. The laptop belonged to a clinical psychologist that worked in my building with high-risk people and she put the briefcase on top of her car when loading other things, forgot about it, and drove off. She was so happy that I found it and offered to pay me a reward.

They had the time to process out all the feelings of sorrow, guilt, and pain with their child before they died.

I said no to the reward and agreed to meet so I can give her the bag and laptop back.

She was so grateful, her entire life was on that laptop and all the sensitive client data was unencrypted. She offered to take me out to dinner as a way to say thank you. I agreed to that.

We went out to dinner a few days later and had a great time. The conversation was wonderful and she asked about my work and I asked about her work. She told me about her thesis work, about parent/survivor guilt and recovery when a child dies.

Look them in the eye and tell them how much they matter to you. How much they light up your life. How lucky you are to have them in your life.

Her research showed that parents who had a sick child, like one dying of cancer or some other illness, tended to cope and recover with the loss of their child better over time than the ones who lost a child suddenly and tragically.

The reason why? Because the parents with a child dying from a long illness had time to express their love for them. They had the time to process out all the feelings of sorrow, guilt, and pain with their child before they died.

The parents whose child skated away and was killed in a car accident or was shot in school never had a chance to tell them “I love you” that one last time. Those parents suffered and some never recovered from that loss, often turning to substance abuse to cope.

A simple statement as saying “I Love You” and making it a point that it’s felt between parent and child made all the difference to the survivors. That love, that tacit and emotional communication between them, was enough to sustain the survivors during their grief and loss.

That love was a seed. It was that single blooming flower in a fire-scorched wilderness, and it was a reminder of the beauty that was before.

Would you have made them feel the love you had for them before they left, never to return?

This realization hit me hard. I went home that night and thought about it. I still think about it to this day. I thought about it during the memorial.

How many of us just say, “I love you! Have a nice day!” perfunctorily and watch our loved ones run out the door to work or to school. We do it all the time and then a handful of us get that phone call, the one you never want to get.

Would you have said something different to your lover, child, parent, partner, or friend then? Would you have given them an extra hug or another kiss? Perhaps looked deeper into their eyes? Would you have made them feel the love you had for them before they left, never to return?

I know I would have wanted to.

I Love You

There is always time to say it. There’s always time to manifest it. There is always time to renew it.

That’s the wonderful thing about Love, it’s a renewable resource. It’s always there and it can grow from the tiniest seed, planted in the harshest conditions.

Say it now. Turn to the people that you hold dear in your life and make them feel it. There are so many ways you can do it.

Look them in the eye and tell them how much they matter to you. How much they light up your life. How lucky you are to have them in your life.

Realize how much they matter to you because you matter to them too.

The only thing we can take with us, as that last breath is drawn, is knowing we are loved.

Because the greatest gift we can receive is someone’s love and the greatest thing we can give them is our love.

When death comes for us, whether it comes quickly or took its time, the only thing we can leave behind is our love. The only thing we can take with us, as that last breath is drawn, is knowing we are loved.

PS

I sat in my office after the memorial and read through the news. Another killing, another tragedy, and life just seems to go on. People being shits to one another and so much turmoil. I just sighed.

My daughter was sitting behind me drawing her artwork when she just blurted out, “Dad? I love you.”

I smiled, stood up, and kissed her on the top of her head.

“I love you too.”