Every now and again (if we're lucky, it's only every now and again), life forces us to become aware of its cyclical nature: the ocean's ... ebb and flow, the budding of spring, the ... o
Every now and again (if we're lucky, it's only every now and again), life forces us to become aware of its cyclical nature: the ocean's relentless ebb and flow, the budding of spring, the desolation of winter. We are confronted by inescapable facts, facts that in the hustle and bustle of every day life we are usually able to ignore. The fact that life goes on, but it also slows down, and ultimately, comes to an end.
Life has thrown one of these cold hard facts my way. My dad, as I tell people, 'isn't doing well'. He's doing as well as can be expected 'under the circumstances'. The circumstances seem to be that all of his organs are slowing down and refusing to work the way they were intended to work. He's not in pain but he's not really himself either. He's not the loving vital man I remember, the man whose faults sometimes outweighed his virtues, but whose love and strength and gentleness are the legacy he will leave. He wasn't a talker, but he was a feeler. And I'm incredibly grateful for all the years we've had together, and God willing, for more times together in the future.
But, those times won't be the same. That much I've come to accept, although I've spent the last 6 months to a year, pretending that it wasn't so. But pretending didn't change the cold hard facts. Because we are separated geographically (about an 8 hours drive worth) I don't get to see my parents as often as I'd like. And that certainly helped me maintain the illusion. I didn't want to believe it, so it wasn't so!
Last weekend, my husband and I did a quick trip down to visit my parents and see my dad in the hospital. Before I left, I was speaking to a friend, who was talking about her relationship with her elderly parents. At some point in the conversation, she talked about being 'complete' with her parents and asked me if I was 'complete' with my dad.
That definitely started me thinking. To be 'complete' means to have no unfinished business with someone or some thing. I am grateful to her for asking me that question, because otherwise I'm not sure I would have thought about it until it was too late. The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that I did feel complete. That there was nothing left unfinished or unsaid. And as I sat by his bedside, I was sure. My heart is filled with sadness, but it is the natural sadness of the passage of time and our inability to stop the process of aging.
This wasn't always the case, however. I believe I was 27 or 28 the first time I ever remembered my dad saying 'I love you' to me. And because he never said it, it wasn't something I found easy to say to him (although it was very easy with my mother). I can still see myself sitting on the couch in the back room of my old apartment. We had finished a conversation and I said 'I love you'. It was a little scary, and I know I had to work myself up to it. And I remember having prepared myself for silence. But there wasn't silence. He said 'I love you too', then 'bye' and hung up. In fact, although he said it, he said it as though he was surprised it needed to be said. I told you he wasn't a talker!
I sat in stunned silence for a long time. It seemed - and was - such a momentous occasion. I was sure I'd never forget it - and I haven't. Even though it became a regular occurrence, I've never forgotten the magic of that first time. In many ways, I even feel lucky that it took so long. It never became rote or meaningless. I was always aware of the special-ness of that exchange.
But if my dad had gotten to where he is now before we had that opportunity, would I have felt so complete then? I am positive that I would not. My need to hear him say it (I always knew in my head that he loved me, but I still needed to hear the words!) was pretty strong. The thought of never hearing him say it or of my being able to say it to him freely and without hesitation brings a different kind of sadness, a different kind of loss.
So, luckily for me, my dad's doing a whole lot better in the last few days and I still have lots of time to enjoy this exchange with him. But what about you? If you got a call today that said your father, mother, husband, wife, son, daughter, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, grandfather, grandmother, mother-in-law, father-in-law was gone, what would you regret not saying? Same holds true for you. We often think we have plenty of time to 'clean things up'. The truth is, we usually don't so don't delay. Get on the phone and say it now.
Sometimes what we need to say is harder than 'I love you'. If you feel what you need to say is too painful and you don't think you can actually say it to them, then write a letter to them that you never plan to send. The important thing is to release the energy, and it is much simpler to do this while they are still alive. You will notice a difference in your interactions and you will feel 'complete'.
If that person is already gone, then definitely write the letter. Pour out all your feelings, love, anger, sadness, whatever comes up. It will be helpful if you burn the letter after you are done. Create a 'releasing' ritual of your own.
'Completeness' is a gift you give yourself and your loved ones. I hope you'll give it soon.
(c) Louise Morganti Kaelin. Louise is a Life Success Coach who partners with individuals who are READY (to live their best life), WILLING (to explore all options) and ABLE (to accept total support). Find many free resources to assist you in living the life of your dreams at http://www.touchpointcoaching.com For her free newsletter of insightful, practical suggestions for creating your best life, email mailto:email@example.com