There’s a mushy Garth Brooks song that brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it… “If Tomorrow Never Comes” has the singer asking himself if his beloved will know how much he loved her, if the amount of love he gives her now will be enough to carry her through if “tomorrow never comes” … if he dies.
We’ve all heard (and probably said) the idea that we should let our loved ones know we cherish them because we may not get another chance. That’s a valid concept and the main reason I try to always end phone conversations with “I love you.” I never want my loved ones to have a final memory of me being hurtful or negative.
But what about letting others know how we feel about their loved ones?
As an education reporter, I covered countless events at our local high school in the town where I live. I even met the First Lady of the United States when on assignment there. But none stick out quite in my mind like a memorial service for a student who died in an accident right before the school year started. There was a special service in the garden of the school and I remember his father addressing the crowd of students, parents and faculty gathered there.
That heartbroken father spoke of his love for his son, even during typical “teenager” times. What struck me is that he shared how, since his son’s death, he had countless people tell him stories about his son. Stories of fun they’ve had, stories that showed what an amazing young man the kid was and the impact he had on people’s lives. The father said “I wish I would know know all of that when he was alive.”
He wasn’t saying it with regret, at least I didn’t take it that way. I think he was simply expressing that he wishes he had the perspective of other people about the son that he loved so much but seemed to struggle with at times.
At that moment, I became determined that no other parent would have to suffer that feeling if I could help it. In my years as a reporter, I’d interviewed a ton of kids. I’d venture to say more than 1,000. There were shy ones, there were cocky ones. Then there are the kids I will never forget. The kind that after you meet them, you want to be their friend and to learn from them.
I made a point to seek out several parents of kids I’ve interviewed over the years to let them know what their child means to me. That they are someone that another adult respects and honors. After that, any time I had a good interview with a kid, I tried to let their parents know and I tried to be specific. Not just “hey, your kid is nice.” But, “your kid was well spoken and had good ideas. They weren’t afraid to express themselves and that’s good.”
You’d be surprised at the different emotions that would flick across parents’ faces when I’d say stuff like that. I think deep down I tried to do it even more for the kids who were considered “at risk” or “troubled” … in other words, the kids who probably faced some pretty messed up stuff in their life and based on that were making bad choices. By interviewing them … and later telling their parents about how valuable their child’s input was to me… I wanted to empower them to not only realize their opinion mattered, but that they had the ability to make good choices. They had the responsibility to make good choices.
I know I’m rambling at this point but I hope my point has gotten across. To me, it’s not enough to just tell people in our lives how much they mean. It’s important to tell others. This is true for teenagers, employees who have done a good job, students, whomever. Your comments may help that person see their loved one/employee in a different light, thus helping the relationship. But more importantly, “if tomorrow never comes” you will know that they had some idea just how important those people are in their lives.