Several years ago, I lost my father-in-law to pancreatic cancer. That was the first person I had lost in my life that I genuinely loved. I had lost people that were acquaintances, but I had never lost someone that had invested in me and cared for the outcome of my life. In fact, until Eddie, I had never had another man love me the way that he loved me. It was the first great loss of my young life.
I was about 28 years old when Eddie passed away. I was a young man that did not know how to have a healthy relationship with another man. I never had a healthy relationship with my father, or any other man in my life. I had buddies to run around with, I had a best friend that I would have died for, but I never had an emotionally stable, mature man, gift me his unconditional love.
In the months leading up to Eddie’s passing, there were so many things I wanted to say, but did not know how to say them. My life had been forever changed, yet I cringed with fear every time the words of gratitude tried to pry themselves free from my lips. At 28 I was still an insecure young man trying to find his place in the world and discover who God had created me to be. I sheepishly admit that I missed nearly every opportunity to tell Eddie how much I loved him and how much I appreciated his presence in my life. It is one of the greatest regrets of my life.
Fifteen Years Later
Fast forward 15 years, and I have had to say goodbye to someone else that I dearly love. The difference this time, is that I left nothing unspoken. As I stood in the room with Jim’s family I felt a great sense of peace knowing that I had no regrets in our relationship. I did not have to wish I had one more conversation to say the things I needed to say. We had shared the things that mattered in our day to day interactions.
I made it a habit to express my gratitude for the way Jim had invested in my life. I made it clear that he had changed my life for the better. I had learned to say to him, and I have learned to say to others, all the things I did not know how to say to my father-in-law, all those years ago.
I do not say that to boast. I am still a work in progress. But I am much further down the road of maturity at 43 than I was at 28. I have developed the habit of expressing gratitude and I have learned to be more transparent with my life. When people invest in me, I try very hard to speak up and let them know what it means to me. When I am struggling, I am getting better at reaching out and being transparent. The give and take of this kind of relationship, forged a deep bond of friendship between myself and my friend Jim. In fact, he was more like family in my eyes, than a friend.
Running Out Of Time
A truth that we all know, is that we all have a finish line in this life. Unfortunately, most of us live, as if we will have one more day. We do not live as if we are running out of time; as if there is an end to this life.
Imagine you knew that you only had 30 days to live. How would your priorities change? What would you do differently? If you knew when the end would come, a responsible person would take care to say and do what needed to be done.
With that being the case, why do we not do that every day, when we do not know when the end will come. None of us is promised tomorrow. Many times, death comes as a thief in the night. It is unexpected and it comes sooner than we had hoped for.
With my friend Jim, I had received a call around 6:00am from his wife letting me know that they were going to put him on a breathing tube. I finished getting dressed and headed out to the hospital. My drive was about an hour and forty-five minutes. I arrived around 8:30am. Jim did not make it through the procedure and had passed away shortly before I arrived at the hospital. He had been fighting cancer for about a year, and had been told a few weeks prior, that the doctors believed he had about six months to a year to live. The events of that morning were unexpected to me. I did not plan to lose my friend so soon. Many people on both sides of the equation fall into the same circumstances. Either the person that passes away gets caught off guard, the friends and family get caught off guard or both.
5 Things You Can Do Every Day
Prioritize the people that are close to you. You are not, nor should you try to be, emotionally invested in every person you know. All of us have people that are acquaintances; people that we know, but we are not close to. Then, there are those friends and family that have invested in you, and you have invested in them over the years, that really matter. Give these people your time and attention. Put them on your schedule. Do not leave these relationships to chance. Schedule lunch, a trip to the mall, a vacation, a movie, etc. Be spontaneous with them. When you get a hankering to go and do something, invite them to go along. If they invite you, say yes.
Learn to talk about your thoughts and feelings. Do not be superficial. Let them see under the hood. Be vulnerable. Let them see the person that struggles. Trusting people with your weaknesses and during times when you are weak, builds deeper levels of trust.
Give them the best of who you are. Smile. Be positive. Give them high energy. This may seem contradictory to #2, so let me explain. Too many times we give the best of our energy to school or work. We put on our happy face for strangers and clients. We work hard at providing good customer service. But, when we come home at the end of the day, or we meet up with friends, we are down in the mouth. We sulk, we complain, and we drain energy from others. We are not being vulnerable, we are not being transparent, we are sucking oxygen out of the room. Give the people that mean the most to you the best, not your left overs.
Serve them. When you see a need in their life, go out of your way and spend your time, your energy, and your resources to solve their problems. If you cannot, recruit people that can. One of the greatest expressions of love, is to put another’s needs above your own.
Tell them what they mean to you. People that wish for one more day, or one more conversation, wish they could just tell someone what they meant to them. There is no right or wrong time for this. When you love and appreciate someone or something they have done, tell them. Write a letter, send a text, pick up the phone, or drive to their house, but tell them they matter to you. If you tell the people you love, that they matter to you, every day, you will not have the need to have one more conversation to say what needed to be said.
No one wants to live with the regret of losing someone; and on the other side, wishing they would have said or done something more, to let their family member or friend know they loved them. Start talking to people as if it might be the last conversation you might have with them.