My grandfather was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in the fall of 2014. The doctors informed us of the aggressive treatment he would need to move forward with and that the treatment was not going to actually “treat” or rid his body of the cancer, it could only prolong the inevitable.
My grandfather was an old fashioned man. He did not want pity or sympathy. He built his life from the ground up and provided – through hard work, grit, and determination – for his family. He was a do-it-yourself man and when he spoke (which was not often), his words were wise. He never spoke of emotions and the few times he said, “I love you” I cherish deeply. The last time I saw him I tried to tell him how much he meant to me and how much he helped to shape me, but I couldn’t find the words. Every time I tried to speak to it, he made it clear we were not having that conversation.
In September 2015, about a year after his diagnosis, my mother called sharing that we only had a few weeks left with grandpa. The cancer, through the challenging treatments, was consuming his body. He was weak, tired, not hungry and starting to feel pain. The next morning, I woke, and through tears, wrote a love letter to my grandfather. I sealed it, knowing these would be the last words I shared with him, stamped it, and put it in the mail on my way to work.
It arrived only a few hours after he passed away.
While I know the letter provided my grandmother with the written words of how my grandfather impacted his family, I never had the chance to share those words with him, and now I never will.
As I reflect on the people who have been instrumental through my life, I wonder why I have not taken the time to communicate the impact they have had on me, the gifts they have shared with me, and the way they have helped shape me into the woman I am. Do I need to wait for someone to be on their death bed before I have the courage to thank them?
Maybe in December, a month consumed by the desire to give and receive gifts, we can find the time, the courage, and the words to tell those we love, why we love them. I knew my grandfather was in the process of dying for a year, and I waited for him to have only days left before trying.