Two years ago I sat in the ICU, holding hands with my boyfriend’s best friend.
His hand was warm, his skin perfect. I couldn’t take my eyes off how perfect his skin and body looked.
He was hooked up to so many machines it was hard to tell where they stopped and he began. I had no idea what most of them did. All that I knew was that they were most likely what was keeping this young man, not even 30 years old, alive.
He was a father to a beautiful young daughter; a son to a loving, kind mother; a brother to a sister who would not give up on him and the best friend of a man who believed in him. He had just been in a terrible car accident that had left him with a severe head injury. He wasn’t going to live, and everyone knew it.
The next few days were a struggle for everyone. What had happened? How had this happened? Why had this happened? Friends and family flocked to tell him how much they loved him, what he meant to them and to say their final goodbyes. If loved ones couldn’t make it to the hospital, we called them, using speakerphone so they could speak to him.
Incoherent as he was, I’m not sure whether he could hear those words or not. I like to think that he did. The moments I witnessed were loving, beautiful and extremely painful. Everyone was hoping for a miracle. It never came. He passed away on my birthday.
That week changed me. I made a promise to myself that I would make sure everyone in my life knew how I felt about them. They would know the impact they had on my life. They would know I loved them.
My reasoning was this: If I should pass away suddenly, those closest to me would know exactly how I felt, how deeply I cared for them.
And, on the flipside, if they should suddenly leave my life for whatever reason, whether death or a breakup, I would be left knowing I had said everything I could. I wouldn’t regret not saying everything I wanted to. It was a lesson I swore to take with me for the rest of my life.
For a long time and for the rest of that relationship, I did just that. I made phone calls and sent emails, basically reciting the love letter I had written for each and every one of those people. I wasn’t going to forget. If my boyfriend and I had a fight, no matter how angry or upset I felt, I made sure to say, “I love you,” just in case. He affectionately referred to it as “love overkill.”
Eventually that relationship ended and I began the next chapter in my life. I found a new place to live, added a great second job, found new hobbies and passions, dated—and suddenly I found myself “very busy.” Little by little I noticed those “I love you” calls and emails going out less and less. It wasn’t that I didn’t feel those things; I just wasn’t letting anyone know.
I was telling myself things like, “I’m too busy,” “I have too much on my plate,” “I just don’t have space for that person right now,” and, “I’ll call them later.” Even writing those words seems cold to me. But, in a way, I really believed them.
In a way.
How many of us take for granted that tomorrow will come and that a particular person will always be in our lives?
How many of us walk around punishing ourselves, asking the counterpart questions to statements like, “I’m too busy”? Questions like: “What if I’d just said ___?” “Did he know how much I loved him?” “Why didn’t I tell her every day?”
What is stopping those of us who are not saying “I love you” from doing so? What’s in the way? What’s stopping us from saying things like, “I really appreciate that you’re in my life”? “You mean the world to me.” “When I’m with you, I’m always smiling.” “I love you.”
I can honestly say I don’t have an answer for myself. This embarrasses me quite a bit.
So, I’m recommitting to that promise I made a few years ago. I will make those calls that I used to make. I will write those emails I used to send. I invite anyone who reads this to do the same. We don’t even have to say very much. Who doesn’t like to hear how much they’re loved and how special they are? Let’s bestow that gift upon those we love.
As I type this, I pick up the phone and dial my 95-year-old grandfather. He is very hard of hearing. I struggle through a conversation with him, practically shouting to get my point across, even if that point is just: “I’M FINE, THANKS. HOW ARE YOU?”
The important thing is: The part I wanted him to hear, he did. It was simple. He heard, “I love you,” and, with that, I knew his day was made.
For those of you in my life, and to those of you I have recently lost, I love you. I am in love with you. I adore you. I admire you. I thank you for all your love and support. It is because of all of you that I am the woman I am today. Anytime I fall down, you are there to pick me up. Every time I want to laugh, you are alongside me, cracking some silly joke.
I appreciate you every day, even on the days I don’t tell you.
Sandy Rosenblatt graduated from Pennsylvania State University with a degree in health and human development (family studies). She serves as Executive Director of an assisted living home, overseeing care and treatment for people suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia. She also serves as Head of Client Services for Live Authentic DC, a space where you can discover how much richer and more thrilling it is to be yourself. Sandy is an adventure junkie.
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Assistant Ed.: Jayleigh Lewis/Ed: Kate Bartolotta