From Chapter 1, Mockingbird Moments:
“’s the matter, Aunty?” I asked. “Oh, nothing, nothing,” she said. “Somebody just walked over my grave.”
—from To Kill a Mockingbird
The last time I saw my dad was on a Saturday. It was late afternoon on a beautiful October day. As we stood together on the front porch, I could smell a hint of smoke in the air from one of my neighbors burning a pile of leaves. Dad seemed a little tired, and I knew he wasn’t feeling well, although I never once heard him complain, a character trait that I unfortunately had not inherited. He had come to help me settle into my new home. I was seven months pregnant, had a busy two-and-a-half-year-old son, and had a husband who wasn’t able to help much during this time of year because of his demanding job. As a high school football coach, he spent his weekends dissecting film and drawing up plays.
Fall had always been my favorite time of year—the clear skies, the cool, crisp air, the leaves on the trees changing from green to red, gold, and orange, making summer a distant memory. Fall reminded me of new beginnings, Friday night football, the smell of fresh apples, sharpened pencils, Elmer’s glue, school lunches, and plaid. As I hugged him good-bye, I felt a strange sensation, a shiver, as if someone had walked over my grave. Except it wasn’t my grave; it was his. A strong, unwelcome feeling of sadness and separation invaded my body and mind, like this would be the last time I would see him. I shrugged it off, discounting the premonition to an overabundance of hormones, and reassured myself that we still had twenty or thirty more years together. In the blink of an eye, the morbid, unwelcome thought retreated, leaving me with the powerful, nagging urge to tell him I loved him. I wasn’t one to throw that phrase around, to say it at the end of every phone conversation or good-bye, like an overused, rote aphorism—all one word, “Iloveyoubye.” I saved my “I love yous” for fitting moments and decided I would save this one too. Not knowing he had been denied my “I love you,” he walked away, climbed in his truck, looked back, and waved one last time. And then my dad was gone.
Two weeks after I experienced that "ominous" feeling, my dad died. It happened quickly, without warning, and I never got to tell him goodbye. The "I love you" that I denied him has haunted me for years, filling me with regret and sadness. He knew I loved him, but there is something about unspoken words that makes it difficult to ever have closure. If I've learned anything over the last 25 years, it's the importance of letting people know how you feel. We aren't promised tomorrow, so we should make the most of each day by spreading love and kindness.
"Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight. Extend to them all the care, kindness, and understanding you can muster, and do it with no thought of any reward.Your life will never be the same again."