Friday, September 11, 2009

If I Had To Say Goodbye

When I originally wrote this earlier today, I wasn't sure I'd post it here. It seems too emotionally vulnerable and too targeted in its message to be something that you would want to read. My mom changed my mind.

She called and told me that the entire message -- not just the portion directed to her -- had her in tears, because it reminded her we don't know if this hour is the last, and that we need to tell people they're important to us.

I don't know if you'll feel the same. But I hope you do, and I hope you tell someone today how very precious he or she is in your life.

In a blog post I found via @SuzeMuse, Christopher S. Penn challenges people to decide what they'd say if they only had one hour left on earth. It's a relevant exercise, given that today is September 11, and that the people trapped in the South Trade Tower had approximately that long between impact and collapse. While the technology of eight years ago wasn't as fast or fancy as what we have available now, I'm typing this up in email... something many of those people could've done in their last moments.

So I'm taking this to heart. What would I say if I had to say goodbye?

Mom, I love you. I'm so thankful that whatever arguments or disagreements we've had over the years, you were the one I could call when I needed someone to say "I love you" and mean it. And it may not have meant much to you, but I appreciated that you always told me that before you even stopped to ask what was wrong. Your love came before anything else, and I knew it. I also want you to know that some of the things I like best about myself are things I know I got from you... my curly hair, my willingness to laugh at myself and nearly every situation, my sarcasm, and my ability to just talk to people. I'm so glad you were my mom.

Dad, I love you. I wish we'd spent more time together, had more in common, had been able to speak in a language more similar. I wanted to enjoy things with you and to know you wanted to know about the things that interested me. We've both made faltering attempts to reach one another, and I'm glad that we've at least tried. And I've come to understand what you're telling me when you ask about my car, my classes, or my computer... it's the way you ask, "Are you okay? Are you going to be all right?" Those are the ways you tell me you love me. Thank you for helping me to learn to be a critical thinker, to develop a passion for learning and educating others, and for always telling me that I was smart enough to do whatever I set my mind on doing. Thank you for teaching me that I was equal in talent and skill and mental capacity to any man, and that no one had the right to treat me as inferior. I'm so glad you were my dad.

Katie, I love you. You and I alternated between friendship and mortal enemy status while we were growing up, but I've always known you had my back. You might've hated my guts, but you always defended me against anyone else's words. We were sometimes-reluctant allies, but it's good to have an ally. It was good to grow up with you, telling our secrets in the dark when we were supposed to be asleep. It was good to have you when we celebrated holidays away from home, or mourned sad anniversaries that no one else understood. We are so different, but there's no replacing the blood and memories we share. Our hearts have been shaped by the same things, and I could never have a sister better suited for my life. Thank you for the ways you've loved me and friended me and cared for me. I'm so glad you were my sister.

Jerry, I love you. Before you were born, I didn't know if I'd like having a new sibling. Every doubt vanished the moment I saw you. You were red and wrinkly and had huge Elvis sideburns, but I melted and I loved you. You were the missing puzzle piece of our family, and your appearance made everything complete. I loved watching you and talking to you and holding you, and when I say I preferred (and still prefer) spending time with you over many of my friends, it's true. You're smart, funny, sensitive, and kind. You are growing into a good man, and my heart bursts at its seams when I think of how proud I am of you. One of my biggest regrets is that I haven't been able to live closer to you so I could see you grow. I hope you understand and forgive me. I promise I wanted to. Thank you for the way you've loved me and for being authentically you. I'm so glad you were my brother.

Amy, you have been my friend at my worst and at my best. You've been in more of my life than you were ever out of it, and that makes me happy. You're the one who gets phone calls that consist of unintelligible sobbing... and you always take them. And then you tell me to call back when I need to. A girl doesn't get too many people like that in her life. I'm glad we've grown into adults together, helping one another figure things out. I'm glad we've gone shopping, gone on ferry rides, gone on road trips, and gone crazy and back to sanity together. I hope when you think of me you remember my joyous and my silly moments, and the sad ones slowly melt away. I'm so glad you were my best friend.

Laura, how you have survived our friendship I will NEVER know. I have a lot going on inside of me, and you saw every version of it come out at some point or another. Living with me was an adventure, I'm sure, but I'm so glad that you decided it was worthwhile. I love that you are the person who will hug me when I just need a hug, and who will stuff me full of food when you think my sadness can be fixed that way. You love me fully because you know me fully, and I'm so glad you were my best friend.

Trevor, I don't know how in the world our friendship managed to grow into what it is now but I'm glad it did. You are someone who for no apparent reason decided to be a part of my life and then to unfailingly care about me. I know sometimes I haven't made that easy, but please know that I have truly enjoyed and appreciated our conversations and the times that you went out of your way just to watch TV with me. You knew I needed relaxation and friendship more than a solution, and that's what you gave me. Thank you. I am so glad you were my dear friend.

Ashley, without you I wouldn't have survived grad school. You know that's true, because who else would've made me watch the Teen Witch rap on repeat? Or the Next! midget endlessly? Those were vital to my graduate experience, and you provided them. You also let me complain, you listened to my fears, you gave me advice and told me when I was being a baby, and you always made space for me in your life. You are wonderful. I've missed having you nearby, but I'm so glad you and I became friends.

I'm running out of time... my hour is almost up. So to my friends and family who haven't been mentioned by name, please know I see you in my mind's eye. My heart recognizes the places you've camped out, the areas that would still be spartan if you hadn't danced into my life and made it beautiful. You have helped me through hardship, celebrated my joy, and given my life more meaning than it would've otherwise contained. My moments on this earth have been better because of you. So thank you for investing some of your limited time into me, and for believing it to be well-spent. You are loved, and I'm glad I knew you.

Oh, and P.S. to whoever would have my phone: feel free to call whoever made me miserable while I was alive, and tell them I died. Lay the guilt on thick. Then hang up and know I'm smiling.

That's what I would say if I had to say goodbye.


Kootenay Annie said...

Annette sent us your blog to read. Beautiful, what a lucky Mother she is to have a daughter who can articulate her feelings so well. I am lucky enough to have your Mother as an e-mail friend, but you have her as a mother.
Congratulations to you, your family and your friends, you have all made great choices.
Pat in Kitchener

craftorr said...

Your Mom sent the link to your blog. I am so glad she did, it is a wonderful tribute to you and your family and friends. It is a blessing to read this, as Pat said, I am blessed to have your Mom as an email friend, and she is a blessing and wonderful friend. It means a lot to be able to reach out and sometimes just talk/type what we feel.

Know your Mom and Dad are proud of you, never be afraid to be who you are. I am sure they are blessed by reading this as well.

Keep being the best you can and you can't go wrong. May you be blessed.