This I believe…Now is the time for I love you. I didn’t always think this way. I used to think there would be a time and a place to express myself. I was convinced that the perfect opportunity would naturally arise and the feelings in my heart, the thoughts in my soul would transform into words and actions…at the right time.
I graduated from college in 2000, my entire life ahead of me. I was a walking cliché: I was apartment-hunting, working for a children’s magazine in Manhattan, enjoying the city with my friends – the world was my proverbial oyster.
The reality I spent twenty-two years building crumbled in a whirlwind that lasted three months. The phone rang one day and I often wonder if life would be any different had I just let it ring. In the days and weeks that followed that call, I sat by my father’s side, desperately holding onto the hopes that he would recover from a sudden stroke. My wish never came true. He was diagnosed with lung cancer and, in an unfair match, lost the fight against his relentless opponent. I was his baby girl and my adult life was just beginning; his ended.
While his health deteriorated, I could not ignore the gaping darkness that grew in my stomach and tore at my heart. I needed more time but time was not an option. I had to find the words to explain that, though I often fought his point of view, his opinion was the one I valued most. I wanted that time to tell him that I respected his feelings and admired his perspective. While I often said the words “I love you” I wanted to be certain that he knew just how much he meant to me. I needed to tell him but I never got that chance because I kept waiting for a better time.
After he died, I seemed to have an endless amount of time. I couldn’t help but recognize that everything that happened from February 2, 2001 would happen without him. I spent a long time spewing anger at life and wallowing in the festering void that ate at me. The anger didn’t bring him back as I knew it wouldn’t. It certainly didn’t give me the perfect opportunity I was seeking to make sure he knew how much he meant to me.
I can’t change what I did or didn’t say to my father. I can’t show him through sincere gestures and obvious actions how much I loved him. I look back and I can only hope that my love was enough to get that message to him. I have to live with that reality; it is the past and I can’t change it. But I won’t let the past repeat itself.
Through losing my dad I discovered that long-awaited concept of the perfect opportunity: now is always the right time for I love you.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.