It was about this time exactly twelve years ago that I last saw my dad.
We were in the hospital visiting him after he was in a car accident. He was supposed to come home the next day and we were all very happy and relieved to get him out. When we left, he called me back and told me he loved me. I told him that I loved him. That is the last thing we said to each other. A few hours later, he unexpectedly died.
Our last words are what got me through the last twelve years of grief. With every regret and morsel of guilt in my body and brain comes the solace in knowing that the last thing we said to each other was “I love you.” It would have been easy for me to hang onto whatever I was mad at him for that week, knowing that we had tomorrow. Luckily, in my family, there was one big rule – never go to bed mad. You don’t know if you, or the other person, will wake up the next day.
A bit morbid? Maybe. But clearly it was a lesson that helped me out in the long run.
Never go to bed angry. Solve the problem now.
I try to live this way. If there’s anything that losing my dad at thirteen taught me, it’s that nothing is promised. Not tomorrow, not even the next minute of your life. So don’t hold onto anger and please stop putting off what you want to do for later.
We live in a very passive aggressive world. You can ignore text messages, block people on Facebook and carry out fights via email instead of talking face to face. We get jealous to the point of ruining friendships and take not being invited somewhere as a personal insult. We’re angry, entitled and egocentric.
What if instead of holding all of these thoughts, we told each other instead? Or let go? What if we actively chose to forgive and just let the other person live? Resentment will only cause pain.
Before my dad’s car crash, we were fighting often. I was thirteen and cared only about myself and he wasn’t going to let me turn into an asshole. But every night, we had to let that go. Because every night, I had to make peace with him before going to bed. It led to a lot of 10PM guilt ridden walks into the livingroom where I would apologize and we’d cry a little or he’d hold me or I’d just go back to sleep. But peace was always made. We never went to bed angry.
The few days my dad spent in the hospital were among my favorites because I just let all my anger go. I realized that resenting him wasn’t worth it. I took care of him and we talked, laughed and pulled pranks on the nurses. We said we loved each other and knew that the relationship was going to be different when he got home. I’d be kinder, he’d be more patient, and our whole household would appreciate every second even more.
Obviously that day never came. But our last moments were peaceful and every moment since then has had a heightened sense of importance. I never go to bed with unresolved conflicts and make sure to tell the people I love that I love them. Part of me is trying to make up for the lost time with my dad. But it enriched my relationships and taught me that the weight of guilt is not worth it. Be the person to let go and apologize.
Make up with someone today. Let your anger go. Tell everyone that you love how much you love them. Nothing is promised to you & by acknowledging that, you can start to appreciate the time that is gifted.