When You Love Someone, Tell Them
I ran into a friend at the supermarket yesterday. We first met when our daughters went to pre-school together several years back. Then, I didn’t know her all that well, though I always liked her; last year, we reconnected as Facebook friends. We bonded because her son was going through a serious heath problem at the same time my daughter, E, was. His condition has vastly improved, luckily, as has E’s. Unfortunately, now her husband is grappling with a health crisis, meaning that this is her second year as caregiver, chief worrier, and schlepper to and from the hospital, her unwitting home away from home.
I noticed her latest post mentioned that she was back from the hospital, but I guess I haven’t kept up with his progress as I should have; last I heard he seemed to be making great strides. But when I saw her and inquired, immediately I could see the heartbreak. Things, it seemed, were not good right now. I felt guilty I hadn’t kept up, didn’t know what to say. What can you say? Thoughts like, Clearly, life is not fair! Why should you have to go through this again? God, I hope this gets better for you soon! What can I do? crowded my thought bubble, but we were at different checkout counters and it was just before 3pm, meaning school would be out soon. I hoped my expression conveyed the empathy and sorrow I was feeling for her, and vowed to reach out after in an e-mail to follow up.
When I was little, maybe five or six, my dad bought me one of those Hallmark porcelain figurines. It was a little girl standing holding a daisy, wearing a sweet sundress, big doe eyes and close-lipped, shy smile. There may or may not have been a cat at her feet–I can’t recall. (My memory says cat, but it is not to be fully trusted.) Underneath it read, “When You Love Someone, Tell Them.” For years, I looked to that statuette, with its moralistic slogan, for comfort and counsel. I still think of it today.
Last year, I learned first-hand that the comfort of family, friends, acquaintances, and colleagues can lift you up in times of distress, uncertainty, and sorrow. It might seem trite to leave a comment on Facebook, or to say words like, “If there’s anything I can do” in a supermarket aisle, but it’s not. Even in our darkest days, when E’s health was in peril, I always knew we were supported. Friends telling me I was brave, when I didn’t feel it at all, helped give me the courage to go on and face another difficult day. Sometimes not saying anything at all, but just listening, allowing me to vent, offering a knowing look or a hug, writing a little “thinking of you both” on my FB wall, lifted my spirits so I could then lift E’s. It made a difference.
If I can offer any advice at all, I would pass along what my little porcelain figurine taught me: When you love someone, tell them. Tell them especially when they need you most. Tell them in little ways, even if you think you’re saying what everyone else is saying. You don’t have to use the word “love” if that’s not right–just showing you care, that you’re thinking of them is meaningful. Even if you think they’re overwhelmed by all the attention they’re getting, it will make a difference. I promise you.