Nearly 20 years ago, I delivered a speech in honor of a former caregiver for her husband with Parkinson’s. I titled it, It’s NOT the Thought That Counts.
In 1994, while on a tight schedule in Milwaukee, I decided not to squeeze in a visit to a very ill friend who had a prominent role in shaping the city and my life. I returned to California and learned soon after that he died. His wife comforted me with, “It’s the thought that counts.”
My regret loomed large.
I missed the opportunity to visit Milwaukee’s longtime and much-loved mayor. He played a caring and constructive role during my early adulthood in the late 1970s. What a gift I could have given a dying man with words of gratitude once more after so many years.
I didn’t want to experience the same regret of losing a friend during her final days overcome by cancer.
Inspired by regret, I dedicated my speech in 1999 to my friend. She was too weak to attend, so we videoed it. A few days later, with her family, my husband and I gathered ’round her, we viewed the video through teary eyes.
It’s NOT the thought that counts.
Today, while we’re virtually connected and able to communicate easily via social media and text messages, I’ve learned to reach out. Life is uncertain and sometimes, it’s too late. Even when we think we’ll live a long time and those around us will too, something happens.
After a person’s gone, I often hear, “I should have said ______.” “I wish I told her one last time ______.” “I regret not being able to hug him once more.”
For the last dozen years, I’ve noticed people’s reactions after a celebrity dies. I find it a bit unsettling. We see no news. Suddenly, there’s a flood of people heaping praises upon the newly departed.
Wouldn’t it be better if we kept these people in our minds and hearts and occasionally wrote about them too? Social media makes is easy to share what people mean to us while they’re alive!
Celebrate LIFE while they’re ALIVE!
Twenty years ago, while funerals were mostly solemn affairs, I encouraged people to have Celebrations of Life, instead. Today, I realize we’ve got this whole Celebration-of-Life thing wrong! Instead of waiting till they’re gone, let’s celebrate while they’re still alive. What a magnificent send-off that would be at life’s end!
Avoid regret and mounds of guilt.
Let’s be proactive. Let people know in real time how they contribute to your life. Let them know how you feel. If you take time to read something on their Facebook, G+, Twitter, or LinkedIn page, take a moment to write a note. Otherwise, how will they know you even noticed?
It’s NOT the thought that counts.
Over the years, I’ve called or sent an email when someone’s been on my mind awhile. These days, I’ll also send a Facebook message. Because I reach out to them, I rarely feel regret when they’re gone. I miss them, but I know I’ve done all I could while they were alive.
Sometimes, we grow too self-conscious (self-absorbed?) and make excuses. Instead, start letting people you value, know what their life means to you. After all, it might be the last thing you do, say, or write that they’ll enjoy.
After the video finished, we got up to let her rest. I was the last one in her room. As I started to leave, she reached for me. She thanked me for the speech and our effort to have it videoed. She asked me to visit, again. I promised, we’d come for Easter. She whispered, “Come earlier, I don’t think I’ll make it that long.” She died a few days later on Good Friday.