“You all be good,” she is saying, starting to doze. “I love you.”
These are the things we all say at the end of book club now: I love you. Of course we do. Why haven’t we been saying that all along?
~ from The Bright Hour – A Memoir of Living and Dying by Nina Riggs
It was late the other night (anything after 9pm is late in my house) when my iPad dinged with an incoming Facebook message. It was from my brother who is wintering in Arizona. He shared a funny photo and story about something that had happened to him recently. We laughed about it before he updated me on the results from a couple of photography contests he’d entered. We chatted back and forth for a few minutes and then we said our goodbyes and ‘I love you’s.
Hugs are fine…sometimes
We are a family that hugs, at least we hug each other, but I don’t think any of us would necessarily call ourselves ‘huggers’. Huggers – those people who always comes at you with open, outstretched arms. Don’t get me wrong. That’s fine, if that’s who you are (and I hear there are a lot of benefits to hugging), I’m just saying I’m not and I’m fairly selective about who I hug. If I don’t want your hug, it’s not going to happen no matter how much of a hugger you are. I nearly stiff-armed someone once to avoid a hug that I wasn’t comfortable with (My Sweet says there was nothing ‘nearly’ about it). I have boundaries. I don’t apologize for them.
We hug. The ‘I love you’s have been more of an evolutionary process – not the feeling (we love each other, no doubt about it) but the spoken words. I’m not sure exactly when the shift happened in earnest, but I suspect it was around the time that Dad went into the hospital and we began to realize our time with him was going to be shorter than we thought.
Maybe it wasn’t as big of a shift as I think and I’m just more aware of these things now, but our hugs definitely became more than just a ‘see you later’. Everything we wanted to say, but didn’t have words for was poured into those hugs. We also started saying ‘I love you’ more.
All you need is love
You can say a lot with an ‘I love you’.
I love you (Even though I still don’t agree with you).
I love you (I want you to be safe).
I love you (I miss you).
I love you (I’m proud of you).
I love you (I’m sorry life is hard right now).
I love you (I’m glad we’re family).
Love and loss
Something about experiencing a loss of that magnitude changed our relationships with each other. How could it not? I see families come and go from the funeral home where I work, each going through loss and each experiencing it differently; each manifesting their emotions in different ways and not always in a good way, a way that relieves their pain rather than magnifying it.
I have seen some families for whom loss creates deeper divides and fractures relationships. I don’t judge them for it, truly I don’t. I can’t. People, families, are often, if not always, complicated things. Grief itself is a complicated thing and we all walk through it differently.
In our case, it drew us closer together. Any reluctance there was to share the depth of our feelings for each other disappeared. And it’s been a good thing, one of the few good things that came out of losing our Dad. (‘Good’ isn’t really the right word either, but I think you know what I mean.)
Share the love
There are other people in my life that should hear ‘I love you’ from me more often though, friends and extended family. Hugs are fewer and much farther between. I’m not saying I’m going to turn myself into a *shudder* hugger. I don’t think it will go that far, but I think sometimes people like me (those less likely to wear their heart on their sleeve) assume that people know how we feel about them.
I mean, they know I love them right? Do I really need to say it?
Yes. Yes I do. Words are powerful and the right words, words like ‘I love you’, are some of the most powerful of all.
So why wouldn’t I want to?
If I’m honest, it’s because I’m busy feeding (or is that feeling?) my insecurities. Maybe those people don’t feel the same way. Maybe they’ll laugh it off. Maybe I’ll get emotional and look like an idiot.
Those are the worst reasons ever for not telling someone how I feel because what if…what if I don’t get another chance?
And even if I do, even if I get a hundred more chances, I still can’t control how another person will respond to me and I can’t dictate how they feel about me in return. But maybe my words will give them the courage to tell the people in their lives who most need to hear it that they are loved.
And we all want to be loved. And we all want to hear it…need to hear it.
So just in case no one else tells you this today – I love you! And I guess if you really need it I could give you a hug too.
Now go pass it on 💗