“Say What You Need to Say,” column for Nov. 11, 2014

Why do we wait so long to tell someone what they mean to us? What makes us quick to criticize and slow to offer praise? Why are the most important words often the hardest to say?

People like to tell me stuff. Not just friends, but strangers, too. It’s not unusual to find myself leaning on the sink in a public restroom listening to someone I just met as she walked out of a stall, pour out her heart. I’m not sure if it’s a blessing or a curse.

When my kids were teenagers, they used to tell their friends, “Careful. My mom wears a sign on her back that says ‘confess.'”

The sign worked for their friends, not so much for them.

Once, in the airport, my husband stepped off an escalator ahead of me. When he realized I wasn’t with him, he looked back and saw me hugging a stranger.

I’d asked the man behind me, “Did you have fun in Vegas?”

His answer broke my heart. After 50 years apart, he’d come to say goodbye to the love of his life, who was dying of cancer.

“I should’ve married her 50 years ago,” he said. I hugged him, and then he was gone.

Moments later, my husband said, “He told you all that on the escalator?”

I shrugged. “Maybe he just needed to tell somebody. And I sort of asked.”

When someone wants to talk, you don’t need to wear a sign on your back to get them to open up. Ask a question. The words don’t matter. It’s the tone in your voice and the look in your eyes and the caring in your heart that count.

If you don’t care, don’t ask. If you do? Well, then, just shut up and listen.

Sometimes I think the whole world is starving to be heard.

We wear shirts with catchy phrases that say in effect, “Hey, look at me!” We put bumper stickers on our cars spouting opinions we won’t discuss in polite company. We hang words on our walls (mine are “Eat,” “Hope” and “To everything there is a season…”) to remind us of things too fine to forget.

And yet, we neglect to ask the questions and say the things we need to say to those who matter most to us while there is still time and opportunity to do so.

Go figure.

Recently I heard from a reader who was kind enough to share with me the eulogy she’d written after losing her mother.

Sometimes, as I writer, I’ll read someone’s writing and think, “OK, I don’t need to write any more. It’s been done.”

This was that kind of writing. I wish you could’ve read it.

Most of all, I wish her mother could’ve read it. I can only hope her mother knew all the things her daughter wrote about her _ that she was known so well and loved so very much.

I like to think folks will say a few nice things about me when I’m gone. But given a choice, I’d rather hear those things before I go. Wouldn’t we all?

That started me thinking. I need to tell my children I am proud of them. They know it, but it can’t hurt to say it again.

I need to tell my sister I’ll be forever in her debt. I was the one who left. She was the one who stayed, who’s “been there” for our family _ for our mother, our dad, our brothers and me.

I need to say to my best friend in second grade that I am sorry I broke her nose (an accident); and to my best friend in high school, that I am sorry I stole her boyfriend (also unintended); and to any friends still speaking to me, I am sorry I don’t call you more often, and I won’t blame you if you don’t say nice things about me when I am gone.

And to my husband, I need to say, well, he puts up with a lot.

While I’m at it, I need to say to readers, thank you, thank you, thank you, for reading.

Actually, I need to say a lot of things to a whole lot of people. Maybe you do, too.

You can tell me, if you want. But maybe you should tell them first.

 

Comments

  1. Kate Sciacca says:

    I must say along with all the others – thank you for using your God given talent to share life’s ups and downs with all of us. Makes us feel like we are not so alone. 🙂

  2. Sharon,

    I love your writing, as you already know. It is so pure, honest, personal and touching. I’m glad you share your inner most thoughts with the rest of the world, even if you do have a sign on your back.

    Most of all, I’m glad I can call you “friend.”

    Blessings,

    Bruce

  3. Derrill says:

    Say what you need to say, Well here it goes , I love reading your column just wish it would appear daily. I have gotten treasures of info from them, some funny some sad, some just down right tells me where I’ve been where I stand and what I need to do. Keep up the great work love it!

  4. Lynne Glover says:

    Big thank you for the big writing compliment. I wish my mum was here to read it.
    But please know that mum DID know how I felt…

    I had written the “80 Things I Love About Mom” for her 80th birthday in January. And as she was recovering from her first stroke in the hospital, she had asked my dad to bring it to her. So she had it with her when she passed away on Mother’s Day this year.

    I decided to read it at her funeral as it really said it all. But I’m so happy to say that she most definitely knew how much I loved her.

    Crying still six months later, but it is a good cry. I am so lucky to have had her as my mom. I will never stop missing her. But the world is a better place because of Carole Glover. 🙂

    • Sharon Randall says:

      NOTE TO READERS: Lynn Glover (who posted a previous comment ) was kind enough to allow me to post (below) her wonderful eulogy about her mother, which she originally wrote for her mother’s 80th birthday, “80 Reason Why I Love You, Mom”:

      “80 Reasons Why I Love You, Mom” by Lynne Glover

      1- Because you married dad
      2- Sharon
      3- Mark
      4- Scott
      5- And you always made all of us feel loved, especially Mark, who drank TWO bottles
      6- Because people always know where they stand with you – for better or for worse
      7- You made me awesome Valentine’s Day boxes
      8- And Halloween costumes
      9- And gave me a true appreciation for art
      10- You taught me how to stick up for the little guy
      11- To say what’s on my mind
      12- To do the right thing
      13- You are a great role model
      14- Because you could do all things through Christ, who strengthens me (you, us?)
      15- You grow beautiful African violets (and a bunch of other pretty flowers, too)
      16- You would take us to the library when we were little
      17- You let me take dance lessons
      18- And acrobat lessons
      19- And came to my recital
      20- You would participate in the annual Thanksgiving Day Show
      21- You taught me how to properly fold towels
      22- You threw a birthday party for Fritz and invited other dogs
      23- And you didn’t care if what you said went all the way to WAAAAAAAASHINGTON!
      24- You would make dad take us to the beach for summer vacations
      25- For teaching me how to macramé
      26- And the afghan chant: “Winter time is darkness time.”
      27- For taking care of me when I was sick
      28- Because when you could hear you liked Simon & Garfunkle
      29- And John Denver
      30- And Johnny Mathis, too
      31- Because you let us sleep on the back porch
      32- And you’d use the kitchen hose to wake up Scott when he was sleeping outside on the porch
      33- Because you learned how to use an iPad when you were 78
      34_ You carry a sign around with you in the car that says: “GET OFF THE PHONE” – and you’re not afraid to use it
      35- Because you love Lilies of the Valley
      36- And could make a mean Apple Blob
      37- Because you enjoy a good laugh
      38- And take good care of dad
      39- And cut his toe nails
      40- For teaching me the value of a dollar
      41- Because you are environmentally aware and like to reuse and recycle
      42- Because you saved all the letters I wrote to Grammy and you and dad
      43- Because you always encouraged me to do my best
      44- And you didn’t give me a hard time if I did poorly in geometry or Algebra
      45- Because you never smoked cigarettes (at least that I can remember)
      46- Because you like your beer and wine (but not too much)
      47- For making it possible for me to save money to buy a car
      48- And a house
      49- And then for giving me money towards both
      50- For welcoming Paul into our family
      51- For turning me on to Betsy Ann chocolate butter creams
      52- Because you vote Democrat (as far as I know)
      53- Because you are just a little bit crazy, but not too much
      54- For instilling a good work ethic
      55- And valuing the importance of education
      56- And being supportive of me going to college
      57- And not killing me when I dropped out
      58- And for being proud of me when I finally graduated
      59- For always giving me some spending money when we go on vacation
      60- Because you would wrap presents so creatively… like the alligator you wrapped up for Max that was eating its way out of the box
      61- For singing Take Me Out to the Ballgame during the 7th inning stretch
      62- For saving Grandpa’s artwork
      63- And for framing one of his paintings for me
      64- For passing down an awesome snickerdoodle recipe
      65- Because you would always mend my clothes for me
      66- Because you think the Golden Rule is “A place for everything and everything in its place.”
      67- Because we always had all kinds of goodies in our house to eat, I mean all kinds and all the time!
      68- For never forcing religion on us
      69- But still going to church
      70- Because you would watch Bo the Bad Cat
      71- And Kelley and Max, too, when I had to go out of town
      72- And you would sometimes take something from my house (but tell me that you took something, but not what it was)
      73- Because you are so smart
      74- And you read the newspaper
      75- And seem to know things way ahead of your time
      76- Because you and dad took me in with two kids in tow
      77- And helped me raise them
      78- Because I know you love me
      79- And you made me who I am today
      80- Because you are my mom

      Happy 80th Birthday, Mom!!!

  5. Lynda Hazlett says:

    Dear Sharon, You are a ray of sunshine every time I have the pleasure to read your column. God Bless You!!

  6. Susan says:

    I love to read your columns and I am entertained, encouraged and blessed with each one!
    Thank you for sharing your heart!

  7. shashi says:

    We need to be listened . But most people do not care to listen to our story and we realize after some time why we told them our story ,our kids and about my husband who cares ?But if they wanted to hide their story it was okay for me too . Might be it was not so good who knows it was different and full of discomfort but still they know our story now . Such people are not good friends . We go to work and trust somebody to share as they see us everyday but we have to keep our family life private anyway . Liked the column as we need to open our heart to somebody as and when needed as in one life so much happens and somebody should know at least what happened in the past who knows how much future is left ?might be he or she can feel some comfort after listening our story that they are better off . And by chance if they tell something about them we feel little better off .

  8. Marci says:

    I just want to say thank you for your column. You are a ray of light.

  9. Ruth S says:

    My mother was a listener. I remember one time when she received a telephone call and talked to a woman for over an hour. I ask her after she hung up from the call who it was that she had been talking to and her answer was “I don’t know, it was a wrong number but the woman need someone to just listen to her.” So that is what my mother did. I would swear she had a sign that said “tell me all ab out it, I will listen to you.”

  10. Brenda says:

    Oh my goodness….I know exactly what you are talking about! Hubby tells me that if I am in a room with 25 women and 2 of them were going through a divorce/illness/loss of a parent, child, job, etc.,….they would find me and tell me all about it. If I had a dollar for every time I heard that I was the first person someone was sharing their story with, I would be rich.

    But I have found that even though it can be a curse, it really is a gift. And I try to honor the gift by encouraging, hugging, listening, crying & laughing with them. If they are trusting me enough to share, the least I can do is be worthy of that trust. 🙂

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