Back in the days when I was on Facebook, I came across a post from a friend struggling with medical issues. While most deal with such situations by posting best of luck and stay strong messages, I happened to have her email address because we had just had a high school reunion, and everyone was mailed a packet with such information in it.
I hadn’t seen her – aside from the reunion – in probably 40 years. Such is the world we now live in as thanks to social media, we can keep up with people from back in the day without actually seeing or speaking to them. So I decided to send an email, mostly to encourage her, but also to say how those high school memories still bring a smile to my face and how every day she fights back against these medical issues, it inspires me.
It’s a situation as old as time, where we have special people in our lives but somehow never get around to actually saying out loud how special they are until they’re gone. So I recounted some of my favorite memories of way back when, and while I had no idea how her life had gone the last 40 years, I also had no doubt they included the unique and crazy personality that made some of our interactions memorable after all these years.
She wrote back with the first line of the email saying “thanks for making me have a good cry.”
Since then, I’ve repeated this routine several other times when friends were struggling. Some times the recipient was a close friend. Some times they were total strangers I only knew through social media and could only send such thoughts through direct messages. But they all said the same thing: my world has been a better place with you in it, and I just wanted to say it out loud.
They all answered with the same message: Thanks for making me cry.
Perhaps it’s age, as I am a notoriously sentimental sap who still feels a tear coming on when Jimmy Chitwood hits that jumper to win the state championship in Hoosiers and the movie ends with the voice of the coach saying “I love you all.” My wife is equally notorious when I’m watching such movies for saying things like “you’re not crying over there are you, you big baby?”
But whatever it is, the older I get, the more I tend to make sure things aren’t left unsaid. And every time I do, I end up finding out the words came at a time the recipient wanted and needed to hear it. Plus I’m not sure there’s anyone on the planet who can look in the mirror and think “I know every thing I do is appreciated so I don’t need to hear anyone’s positive opinion.”
Jim Valvano, in the final months of his life, once said “There are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. Number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it: If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.”
Yesterday, because I was up at 6:20 AM due to my old and gelatinous body not getting the memo about daylight savings time, I did it again to a friend, and several hours later got a reply starting out with “thanks for making me cry.”
My answer: You’re welcome. And I’ll do it again if necessary.
Life, I have learned, is way too short to leave anything left unsaid.