By: Janice Johnson-Plumer
When was the last time you said “I love you” to someone? When was the last time you encouraged a love one? When was the last time you had a real heart-to-heart conversation with someone that wasn’t through text, instant messenger, or email? As I sit here and reflect on the passing of a friend who was 36 years old with kids and a fiancée, I start to ask myself those questions.
The questions have lingered with me since the untimely death of my friend, Henry Dwayne William. What makes it even harder to digest is that I just saw him three weeks ago. The last time we spoke he started telling me how he was related to a very large family that I know in Brockton and how his mother had passed away a few years ago. He told me how he just took his oldest son to look at colleges and he was very specific on what school he wanted to go to. He also told me about how he was not currently working due to his disability, but he was thinking of starting to work again in an office nearby. This conversation took place during a basketball game that his youngest son was playing in and my son would be playing afterwards. I felt he was really into his son’s sports activities and making sure he got to the practices and games. We shared a conversation that I will never forget because we had it face-to-face and not through text. It was personable.
My son always tells me he loves me and will hug me when I am on my hands and knees washing my kitchen floor or when I’m cleaning. He says it all the time and sometimes I bug him by assuming he’s trying to get something from me. He doesn’t want anything- he just says it unconditionally without looking for anything in return. When I was younger my parents never said they loved me. Maybe it was a generational thing. Back then husbands and wives worked hard to provide a roof for their children and they made sure they provided the necessities of life for them. It was all about the hustle and making sure there was food on the table. My father worked nights and my mother was a stay at home mom until I was older.
When my mother was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer I watched in disbelief as the illness overcame her so quickly. It wasn’t until those moments in the hospital when I would leave her room when I would say “I love you” that she would say it back. I would think about how many years had passed and now, as grown women, we are just starting to say that we love each other. No matter how weak she was she always managed to say those words back to me. To quote the Master Card commercial, it was “priceless.”
Today, as the pastor gave the eulogy for Henry, he touched on how short life can be. One day we’re here and then the next day we could be gone. That’s why it is so important that we get right with our families, friends, and most importantly- ourselves. He explained that Henry’s passing is a way for us to get better with ourselves and a time for families to get right with one another because life is too short for us to take it for granted.
His words struck a cord with me. I thought to myself “How many times do I look for the good in people instead of being so judgmental?” “How many times have I judged someone without getting to know them?” “How many times have I spoken words of encouragement to someone?” Life is short and we’re not guaranteed tomorrow.
The conversation that I had with Henry is one that I will always remember. It was effortless and it just flowed. I really gave me a sense of the kind of person he was.
There’s a saying that is so true in this situation: “Give me flowers while I am living, not when I am dead” which to me means- give me the flowers when I am able to enjoy them not when I cannot.
Who are you going to give flowers to today? Who can you tell today that you love them? Who can you have a conversation today that doesn’t involve social media?