How do you end your conversations, particularly with loved ones?
In this day and age, a conversation doesn’t start or end the way it used to. Years ago we had to call on the telephone or write a letter, a very personal action that meant a bit of an intimate connection. You carefully chose what you wrote or said.
Then came email, followed very closely by smart phones.
I don’t say this decrying the invention or use of technology; I I use it all the time. I email friends and family. I survive off my iPhone. I text my two daughters all the time. In fact, my oldest daughter, Abbi, tells me I text her more than her friends do (I refuse to believe that, as I constantly hear the “buzz” of phone alerts coming from her phone).
But I recently took on a task I had dreaded for, literally, years. I cleaned out the tons of old messages from my personal email, thousands of emails going back to 2006. I know, I know, why keep them? I figure if it’s all online it’s not hurting anything. Among the X-rated SPAM (no, I didn’t ask for those; I swear!) or the mortgage help (I don’t own a home any more) were rather personal emails. I came across years’ worth of emails between myself and my late wife, Andrea. The majority of those were the most mundane, innocuous emails about daily life. They would have gone to the trash for most people.
Except Andrea passed away roughly 2 ½ years ago. I had hoped to see or hear something compelling or gut-wrenching. It was, but not in terms of content. It’s what wasn’t there.
“Can you pick up Abbi tonight from basketball practice?”
“Can you call the school about tuition?”
“I need you to call home, right away, you’re not answering your phone!”
Do you see what’s missing from each and every one of those emails?
Three words: “I love you.”
Neither of us had written it. My wife’s emails, mine in the sent items folder, all of them had no closing that expressed love. The mundane literally had turned into the mundane at some point. I take solace in knowing that I told her every night. I said those three words a lot in the hospital that last week. I whispered them in her ears, tears streaming down my face, when I bent over and kissed her forehead, telling her goodbye for the very last time. “I love you.”
It’s a hard thing not seeing those words. It’s worse knowing we got so hung up in the day that we didn’t write them closing our conversations.
They’re not simple words. They’re not throwaway words. They’re not something you toss out there like, “How ‘ya doin’?” or even “What’s up?” No, they’re powerful words. Their absence is just as powerful.
I was sincerely disturbed by the fact that every single email was without those words. Not just “a few didn’t” but every one. I have extolled my love of this woman, our early love affair, our roller coaster marriage, the fact that we always, even after fighting tooth and nail, ended up in the same bedroom. Every morning we woke up together. I loved her enough to marry her and stay married to her.
I was horrified when I realized that in the moments she obviously needed those three words: “I need you to call me!” were met with “I was in a meeting will call…” and that’s it. Those are missed opportunities and I obviously missed them.
There’s no stealing those moments back. I cannot add the three words to those emails and express the sentiment. I missed the opportunity to tell her, just those few more times. We always thought it was a throwaway note until we talked in-person.
But we can’t talk any more.
I have few recordings or letters or sentiments from Andrea. Even photos were rare of this beautiful woman. Andrea refused to allow them. The videos I have don’t express love. Sure, they capture a random Christmas or her job as a reporter when she was 22. None of those end with “I love you, Dave.”
But I sure wish they did.
What about you? Do you get distracted by the day, the routine, life?! Do you end every conversation with “I Love you?” Do you think about each conversation as the last opportunity to say those three words? Maybe you should. Maybe…it might change your life.
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Dave Manoucheri is a writer, journalist and musician based in Sacramento, California. A father of four, two daughters and twin sons, his blog, Our Story Begins is a chronicle of their life after the loss of his wife, Andrea, in March of 2011. Follow him on Twitter @InvProducerMan.