Things We Wish We’d Said
No doubt you’ve had an experience when later you think, I wish I’d said…
Maybe you were talking to your spouse about something that mattered more than you first thought. Or about something that was a little (or a big) bone of contention between you. Or about a future plan where you didn’t disclose your opinion in full or at all.
Maybe you were talking to your boss. About your future with the company. About a project. About a new slot opening or a transfer or any other matter of importance where you felt you probably should keep quiet.
Maybe you were talking to your parent. About a rule or a consequence for some action. About a class or a path for your future that you wanted to take or didn’t want to take.
Maybe you were talking to a friend. About any of the things friends discuss, including your friendship.
Or maybe–and in my experience, these are toughest–maybe you wish you’d said something to someone who was dying and didn’t. Either because you didn’t want to upset them or because you were so upset you couldn’t talk past the boulder in your throat because your emotions were in riot.
My point is that we later wish we hadn’t said things, but we wish we had, too. And sometimes it takes more courage and stamina and grit to speak than it does to stay silent.
When my dad was dying, I was at his bedside. He’d been hallucinating for hours. Sometimes he recognized me as his daughter but mostly he recognized me as his mother and spoke to me as if I were her, which was all the more bizarre because his mother died before he was three years old.
Some say he was between the veil–one foot in this world, one in the next. But that’s another story. In this one, the point is that he talked and I listened and learned things about his childhood that I didn’t know. He wasn’t himself, clearly. Yet his words held the ring of truth and the pain of a little boy growing up without a mother and father (who also died before my dad was two years old).
Then in a moment of clarity just before he died, my dad sat up and clear-eyed and minded told my mother and me goodbye. His last words to me were, “I love you, Tiger. God bless.”
I said, “I love you, too, Daddy.” He died minutes later.
Often in the years since, I’ve wished I had seized those few moments to thank him for all he’d done for me as a parent. He was not my friend. I had plenty of friends. He was from beginning to end, my parent and he did all parenting implies.
I knew what parenting took. I knew that he’d sacrificed for me, and that there had been times when I’d stepped on his toes and on his heart. I wish I’d acknowledged all he taught, an appreciation for all he instilled by example and all he encouraged by attitude and outlook.
But the wound of loosing him was so deep and so raw, and that boulder in my throat was so big, I couldn’t say anything more–and then when I thought I could, it was too late. I watched him release his last breath. The opportunity had passed.
I talk to him still in my mind. I say all I wish I’d said then, at that moment. And I’m comforted in knowing that I expressed appreciation to him many times during his life. But I regret not seizing that moment. Maybe saying I love you was enough. Believing that it might me gives me solace. But I wish I had said all those things and more.
When my mother was dying, I did say those things. And I saw her response to them. She lived a time longer and we shared much more. The day before she died, she told me how much all that meant to her.
You see, these things we wish we’d said aren’t just for us, they’re for the other person, too.
The Psalmist said in 39:2 “So I remained utterly silent, not even saying anything good. But my anguish increased.” This lesson, we all learn at some point in our lives. But there are others.
Job 7:11 tells us, ““Therefore I will not keep silent; I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit, I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.” This speaks to airing your differences and hurts so that you can clear the air and settle them. So that the hurt doesn’t fester and grow stronger and rob you of joy and peace.
Later in Job–31:34, we discover an often cited motivation for staying quiet. “because I so feared the crowd and so dreaded the contempt of the clans that I kept silent and would not go outside—.” We don’t want to upset or anger others, or to look foolish. But this kind of silence perpetuates that festering and it adds regret. We should speak up, speak the truth. When we don’t, we condone by virtue of our silence, and that leads us into situations riddled with untruths, misconceptions and places we should not go.
There are times, of course, when silence is golden and listening is the path to wisdom. Recognizing those times requires judgment, and often that’s gained through experience and guidance.
One path to checking yourself on when to speak up and when to stay silent is to listen to those inner voices. The nudges you feel to say something or ones urging you to keep quiet. The nudge or urge isn’t reliable. Determining what is driving it is. If it’s anger or upset, it’s questionable. If it’s love or mercy it’s not; say it.
The important thing is to act from your higher self, not your base self. To not regret what you do or don’t say but to find peace and comfort and solace in what you do or don’t say.
You won’t always be right in what you decide. But if you use your innate tools, you’ll be right more often than not. Asking yourself why is key. Why does it matter? Answer that and you’ll know if it’s your higher or base self doing the nudging.
Answer that and we increase the odds of having fewer occasions when we ride our own backs with, things we wish we’d said.
P.S. I’m including a video I did on Coping with Aging Parents. Maybe it’ll be helpful to those in that situation or coming into that situation.