In case you haven’t noticed, I like words. I know they say pictures are better at conveying an event or action (as in “A picture’s worth a thousand words”), but since I don’t particularly care for how I look in pictures (which means my memorial video is gonna be real short), I’ll stick with the thousand words. And I’m sure there are times people feel like I’ve used them all trying to construct an email . . . or a blog post. Kindly keep all of that in mind as we proceed.
I am also a terrible visitor. As an introvert and aspiring hermit, I’m not that excited about being around people. Oh, I love them and all that . . . I just prefer to do it from a distance . . . while not interacting with them verbally . . . if at all. Kindly keep that in mind as well.
Now, let’s imagine someone you know has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. You know their time on this earth is extremely limited and you know how much they have meant to you over the years, how much you will miss them when they make their final departure. So, what do you do with all that? Do you keep it inside and never actually tell them, never actually say the words? Of course, if they’re any kind of friend they probably already know how you feel, but sometimes—especially in those times—the words are nice to hear . . . and to say.
The problem is that we seem to be more comfortable with the dead than with the dying. Even if you’re not an introvert and aspiring hermit, it is difficult to look Death in the eyes when those eyes belong to someone you love. It is heartbreaking to watch as the illness lays claim to their body, engraving the invitation that Death will one day accept. And for some of us, the words can never come. They can’t because the tears will overwhelm them.
So, we’re back to our original question. What do you do? When the visiting is more than you can stand and the guilt of not having done so is even greater once it’s too late, what do you do? Well, for those of us who are introverts and aspiring hermits who like words, you write.
There are those times when I have taken pen and paper . . . or in later years, computer and printer . . . and I’ve written to someone that I knew was preparing for their final journey. I’ve told them how much they’ve meant to me, how sad I am that they’re leaving this world, and how much emptier it will seem without them. And then I trust the United States Postal Service to take my heart inscribed on those pages and deliver it to its intended recipient. Without fail, when Death finally does make his appearance and I see their family later, that letter is mentioned, and always with a look of gratitude because someone took the time to tell their loved one, in a form which they can now keep forever, how very special that person was.
But you know what? You don’t have to be a lover of words to put them on paper. You don’t have to be grammatically correct or punctuationally perfect. All you have to do is let your heart speak. That’s the important part, that’s the part that will mean more to them than all the appropriately placed commas in the world. It doesn’t even have to be a letter. Cards are sold every day at a multitude of stores, cards that will have a beautiful message to which you can add your own personal thoughts.
The only problem with all of this is time. Death doesn’t always give us fair warning before snatching his prey. You may wake up one morning and that seemingly healthy human you were going to have lunch with is now a client at the local funeral home. So, how do we fix that? By making sure the people around us know how important they are in our lives. Those who are dying shouldn’t be the only ones blessed by such acts. So break out the stationery or rev up the computer. Pull out your leftover notebook paper or write uphill on a blank sheet of something. Tell those you love that you love them and how much they have impacted your life. For some those words may be just what they needed to get them over a rough patch they’ve kept hidden from the world. And for some, those words may be the last words they will ever hear from you.