I learned long ago to never let anyone leave the house without telling them I love them. Not to be maudlin, but there are no guarantees I’ll see them again. I don’t want my last words to someone to be expressions of anger, disappointment, or guilt.
I’m not great at it, and there are many times when I am calling that person as I drive away to apologize or say “I love you, you know that, right?” If I can remind someone of my heart and not my reactionary words, it may go a long way to restoring a relationship. Or reminding someone of how I truly feel.
Within our family, it has become a habit for people to yell as folks walk out the door, “Love you!’ or “Love you lots!” The “lots” was added by my daughters to show the superlative aspect of their emotion.
The grands have picked up on it–even the older ones who might have felt a little self-conscious about making such statements out loud. As each of them leaves, I yell out, “I love you!”
I always get an “I love you” back. Not because they feel forced to say it, but because being reminded that we are loved fills our hearts with warmth that can’t be bought, manufactured, or faked.
When my Dad was sick–he’d had a series of strokes–I was trying to get back to Chicago to visit him. The trip kept getting put off, which frustrated me, but I didn’t feel I could do anything about it.
That’s when I got the call from my sister telling me that Dad had died. I hadn’t had a final time to tell him I loved him, to smile into that beloved face, to hug him tightly and remind him how special he had always been to me.
I missed an opportunity. Regret is a heavy burden to bear.
Time and again I’ve walked away from someone and have later questioned how I could have ended that conversation better, how I could have said what I did in a kinder way.
Or maybe not said it at all.
We each need those special words of belonging, of knowing we are significant to someone. It reminds us that we matter, which does wonders for our self-esteem.
Relying on people to show us genuine love is tricky. We’re not consistent; we all have track records of disappointing others. Love is one of those things that’s hard to give if you don’t have any yourself.
He made us for love out of a heart of love. Offering what has been often refused.
The power of love is it goes where it’s not wanted but deeply needed. It’s not discouraged by rejection but suffers for the sake of the one loved.
God isn’t offended by our attitudes. He persists, loving us even as we don’t deserve it.
In that love is the kind of acceptance and forgiveness, warmth and hope that’s hard to dismiss.
It’s worth the conversation.