I woke up to the sound of the front door slamming. I heard my step-dad’s car start right after. The door slammed again. It’s pretty odd for him to be making so much noise this early in the morning. I walked out of my room and my older step-sister was walking to the front door. “What’s going on?” I asked. “Go ask your mom” is all she said and then walked out the door. I walked into the kitchen. It’s never good when mom is up this early. She was standing at the stove smoking a cigarette. I walked to her and asked her what was going on. “It’s Aaron.” she said. My mind kinda went blank. All I could say was “Is he…….?” She shook her head. She didn’t have to say. I knew.
My step-brother Aaron had spent the evening celebrating his new job with a good friend of his. Way too late in the evening and after too many drinks they decided to head back to his house with his friend driving. They were only a few miles from the house when his friend lost control of the car. It went off the road and flipped several times. Aaron wasn’t wearing his seatbelt and was ejected from the car. He was killed instantly. It’s been 20 years and I still cry writing that sentence.
I had a lot going on before that. My daughter was 3 months old. She was sick and required lots of doctors visits and even more care than a typical newborn. One day a mutual friend of ours that we hadn’t seen for a while stopped by the house for a bit. Aaron wasn’t there so when she left I thought “I need to call Aaron and let him know that she stopped by.” I don’t remember what happened next but I didn’t make that call. “I’ll do it tomorrow.” I thought. Well there’s always activity and “I’ll do it tomorrow” turned into a couple of days. “I’ll do it tomorrow.” Because, there’s always tomorrow, right? Two weeks went by. I never made that call. I ran out of tomorrows.
Aaron and I had been in each other’s lives since we were two years old. His dad and my mom got married when we were young so we grew up together as siblings in every way except biology. I was only 5 months older than him so went to the same schools for many years and had a lot of the same friends. “Step” wasn’t something we pointed out. We were family. He had been living with his mom for a while so we hadn’t seen each other very much in the months before he died. I’m very lucky that the last time I saw him I gave him a big hug and told him that I loved him. I hold that memory safe in my heart.
I was young and overwhelmed with life back then. I was blissfully ignorant to how quickly your life can change. Not making that call has eaten away at me over the years. “I’ll do it tomorrow.” Even though it wasn’t a major thing it still would have given me one more conversation with my brother. I would’ve had one more memory. I would’ve gotten one more chance to tell him I loved him. Everyone has heard Benjamin Franklin’s saying “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” It’s good for inspirational posts on Facebook and on coffee mugs. But it’s hard to actually DO. “I’ll do it tomorrow.” We’ve all said it. We’ve all done it. We’re tired. We have too much on our plate. There’s always something that gets us to put things off till tomorrow. What if there was no tomorrow?
Missing that opportunity to talk to my brother one last time has changed the way I love. I try very hard to make sure that the people that I love know how I feel. I try very hard to not let life overwhelm me so much that I don’t have the time to tell someone that I love them. I try very hard to make sure that I say the things I need to say to people. I don’t want to miss that opportunity again. I don’t want to live with that particular regret again. I don’t want to think “I should have told them while I had the chance.” I don’t want someone to wonder how I felt about them. I don’t want things unsaid or unfinished.
So if the last thing that you said to your partner, child, sibling or parent was the last thing you ever said to them could you live with that? If not, today is a perfect day to make a call.