If your dad still spins on this big blue ball (and he’s tried hard at his paternal assignment), give him a hug. Or a call. Let him know everything you hold in your heart for him. Even if it feels weird. Don’t wait. Do it today.
Time with our dear ones is precious. And fleeting. Often we act as if there will be plenty of tomorrows to take care of sentiments of the heart. But sometimes tomorrow doesn’t come. Take a brave step and tell your dad how you feel. Tell everyone you hold dear how you feel.
I know. It can be awkward getting started. I remember. I was in college when Divine orchestration pushed me to take a chance and say how I really felt. My father had come through open-heart surgery, which made me feel the vulnerability of his life. And then I had heard a campus speaker tell his audience to say those precious words. "Say I love you," he urged. "Don’t wait. Do not wait."
I knew my parents loved me. And I’m sure they knew I loved them, too. We never said it, but we greeted and left one another with hugs and kisses, signs of our affection. But at that moment in my young adulthood, I needed to utter those words. Even so, actually saying, “I love you,” felt weird, forced, no matter how true it was.
During our weekly call on the dorm phone (no cell phones back then), and with butterflies in my stomach, I pushed the words out awkwardly, first to my father.
“I love you, dad.” I'm sure I said it quickly.
You have to understand. This was a rough and tumble hockey guy who spent his life in locker rooms with other rough and tumble hockey guys. They did not say, "I love you."
I waited, holding my breath. Then my dad finally spoke. Maybe he had mustered his own courage. Sort of.
“Me, too, dear." Pause. "Okay, here’s your mother.”
I was actually relieved by the abrupt passing of the phone. I took a deep breath as my mom got on, oblivious to my new declaration. At the end of our conversation, the words came just a little more easily.
“I love you, mom.”
“I love you, too.”
From that point on, every phone conversation ended with, “I love you.” So did every departure after our visits. Each time, I released the words more easily than the last and my parents responded in kind. Soon they surprised me by saying it before I did. Eventually, it slipped without hesitation from our lips.
This first step in really sharing my heart paved the way for my dad and me to go deeper into our relationship. Our conversations became very personal and vulnerable, each one cementing our bond more and more deeply.
As his life waned, I made a list of everything my heart held for him, everything I loved and appreciated about him, everything I would eventually say in his eulogy. It never made sense to me to wait until someone dies to sing their praises. With my chair pulled right up against his hospital bed, I told him all of it. By now there was no hesitation, no feeling awkward. We were well past that. In turn, my father shared his heart with me. And by the time he passed from life to Life, our hearts were inextricably connected in a blessed bond I still feel to this day.
Sweet sons and daughters of the world, don’t wait. Pick up the phone. Extend your arms. Share your heart. Time is precious. You have right now. That's it. Make it count.
Today is the perfect day to start.
P.S. I love you, Dad.