Tell People What They Mean to You

A friend, who recently lost her husband, shared something she’s learned since his death. People are contacting her regularly, telling her what her husband meant to them, recalling wonderful moments they shared with him. She loves to hear their stories, but she keeps wishing that her husband could hear them too. 

She shares an important message. Tell the people in your life how important they are to you, and do it soon.

My father died young, before I was thirty, and one of my biggest regrets in life was that he and I never had a quiet moment in which we exchanged “I love yous.”

My siblings and I could guess he loved spending time with us because when chores were done, he would readily pile us in the car for some adventure. While on road trips in the country, we kids could prompt him with “Wiggle, wiggle, Daddy,” and he would zigzag the car crazily, making us squeal and ask for more. He also delighted in taking us tobogganing down the steepest slide in Racine. To our delight, he’d sometimes hop on himself.

He coached us on the finer points of playing baseball, trained us how to spot rabbits and wildlife, and taught us how to bait a hook, set the line, and take off fish. I have great memories of landing a trout in a Wisconsin stream, hooking a huge salmon while fishing in Root River and reeling up Northern after a “tip-up” signaled action while ice fishing. 

I could guess he was proud of me because one winter day, he took my brother and me rabbit hunting on my uncle’s farm. I spotted a brilliant red fox against the snow, and as a rabbit streaked out from under an evergreen, I aimed like Dad had taught me, and squeezed the trigger. After the blast, Dad nudged my uncle, pointed to the rabbit, and said, “She rolled ‘er.”

What memories did he hold of time spent with me? Would his eyes have lit up if I’d spoken about that picture-perfect October day when he and I pheasant hunted at Honey Creek Game Reserve? The air smelled like ripened fall apples and the leaves crunched under my worn tennis shoes. We had our English pointer dog Pal along, and when Pal froze, paw raised and tail pointed toward movement in the cornfield, my heart raced. The pheasant flushed and lucky for me, it foolishly perched in a tree. I raised my gun, took the safety off, aimed, and fired. When the pheasant fell, my dad gave me a pat on the back and a conspiratorial grin. That same afternoon he took me to a bar and we shared a large order of the best onion rings I’ve ever had or will ever have. 

What regrets did he have? I know he talked about wanting to go elk hunting in the Montana hills, but what were some of his other dreams?

What did he worry about? I can guess he worried about me because he checked my car over before long car trips. He also checked out my boyfriends and when I brought home a new one, he would often have the boy and I compete in a pushup race. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it might have been his subtle way of letting the boy know he better not mess with his daughter.

But I don’t know any of this for sure. Even after his colon cancer diagnosis, we never told each other how glad we were that we’d had so many years together.

Is there someone in your life, a father figure perhaps, with whom you’d like to share fond memories? Is there a family member, neighbor, or friend that needs to hear how much they mean to you?  Is there someone you’d like to thank for all they’ve contributed to this world and to your life? Don’t delay. Do it today and watch their eyes light up. You’ll be glad you did.

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