By Jason Menard
In rushing through our everyday lives, we often are so focused on getting ahead that we forget to look around and appreciate those who have joined us for a ride down the road of life.
I recently attended a funeral, and the adult daughter of the deceased got up and read from a letter that she wrote to her father on the occasion of his 80 th birthday. In it, she stated that she didn’t want to wait for a funeral to express her feelings, when it would be more appropriate to share them while he was still alive. And I was struck as to what a profound yet simple concept that was.
Why do we wait for eulogies to express our feelings? Why is it that we are constantly doomed to repeat the mistake of not appreciating what we’ve got until its gone? Why do we take for granted those that are with us while they’re here, and not appreciate them fully until after their gone?
The game of life can be cruel. Anyone of us, young or old, healthy or frail, can shuffle off this mortal coil at any time, with or without warning. And it’s partly because of that fact that we dwell upon our own self-reflection. Our candle could be snuffed at any time, so we’re bound and determined to make that flame burn as brightly as it can!
There is a reason why important starts with an I – because that is the person we generally put first and foremost in our lives. From our hedonistic, world-revolves-around-us youth to our budding adulthood, we are possessed with the idea of being better, experiencing more, and exploring the world around us. We live, learn, and work to satisfy our Id.
Yet, often when it’s too late, we feel the loss of a loved one. We regret the words unspoken, the harsh feelings, or the wasted time arguing over petty issues. We look back on friends left behind as we’ve moved on.
But why should we wait? The old saying says that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone is a mantra we all repeat without taking it to heart.
But how do we remedy this situation? Personally, despite being a man of many words, I find it hard to express my true feelings. My parents, who I love and care for deeply, don’t hear that enough. I have friendships that I cherished in my youth that have been worn away by the eroding forces of time and distance. Even in this digital age, when communication is as simple as sending an e-mail, we rationalize our distance and attribute our lack of interaction to “being too busy” and “life.” But what good is life without friends and family to share it with?
So what do we do? We can do our best. Even if we can’t say “I love you,” we can show it through our interactions with our friends and family. We can cherish old memories and strive to make new ones. We can reach out for long-lost acquaintances and catch up on old times. The fact of the matter is that the bonds that hold us tight never truly break. They may slacken through neglect and they may be covered in cobwebs, but it only takes a quick dusting off to rediscover what brings us together.
There are some people in the world who are naturally mushy. They emote and empathize with the best of them. They cry at long-distance telephone commercials. Their eyes well up with tears when someone is telling an emotional story. I’m not one of those people and probably never will be. That doesn’t mean that people like me don’t feel. Don’t care. We’re just not as adept at expressing it.
The important thing is that deep down inside, whether you’re an emotional cripple or a blubbering fool, we all have attachments, we all have those we hold dear to us, and we all need to do a better job letting those we love know it.
Because once they’re in that pine box, it’s too late. And all the would haves, should haves, and could haves in the world won’t make up for those lost moments.
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