I believe in never holding back

Shilpika - Reston, Virginia
Entered on February 19, 2009
Age Group: 18 - 30
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I believe in never holding back.

I found my belief in a weather-beaten envelope, brown and curled at its scalloped edges, waiting for me in my mailbox. I stared in disbelief at the faded handwriting scrawled across in smeared blue ink. It was from my best friend. I should have been elated. I would have – except she had been dead for over a year.

I ripped it open and read it. Again. And again. It was written a month before she died. The memories rushed back, bringing with it the heart-wrenching pain of losing someone you love.

She had chided me for not keeping in touch. And then she said something that had changed my life. Simple advice to her 23-year-old lovelorn friend:

“Just tell him already. Don’t hold back. Remember, you have nothing to lose.

PS: Good luck. Love you lots.”

I read those words again, slowly, as I ran my fingers over the letters, now smudged with tears.

I thought about my last words to her. “I’ll call you back,” I had said.

I never did.

Yet, she had found a way to show me she loved me – even after she was gone. Her letter had made its way to me with a message simply too strong to ignore.

As I held the yellowing pages in my trembling hands, I learned what I have truly come to believe: Never hold back.

I thought about all the times I had left feelings unsaid and emotions unspoken.

Like the time I was 10. I had thrown a tantrum at home demanding a toy piano, oblivious to the fact that it probably meant a week’s worth of food. A few days later, my father brought one home, wrapped in a newspaper. I never asked him how many meals he had to skip to buy me one – although I suspect there were many.

I never showed him my appreciation or the delight I found in that tiny, red instrument that kept me busy for hours together.

I thought about the time I was too busy to return a friend’s call, putting it off for later and never finding the time.

She had died four days later. And she would never know how she had changed my life.

Or the time, a loved one had dropped everything and traveled across the country to comfort a terrified friend who had been robbed and molested the night before. He had been there – a pillar of strength and unconditional love.

I had let him go without telling him how much he means to me.

My best friend taught me that life is too short, too uncertain, to let your feelings go unspoken.

I believe in saying, ‘I love you,’ when you have the chance. For it may be your last.

Daddy, for all the times you worked yourself to the bone for your little girl – I thank you.

My friend, for all the times I promised to call you back – and didn’t – I am sorry.

For a lost love, for all the times I let my pride stop me from telling you how much you mean to me – I love you.

Life rarely hands you second chances. I believe in saying, ‘I love you,’ in the first.

This, I believe.