I left her house knowing deep down that was probably the last time I would talk to her. The last time I would hold her hand and the last time I would hear her voice. Yet I didn't say good-bye. I couldn't. I sat next to her bed and we talked about marriage and kids. Her voice soft and weak, but that didn't stop her from carrying on our conversation. I could tell this visit was different than the others since she had learned about her cancer returning. She was done talking about the doctor's visits, the latest treatments and how she was feeling. As I sat down by her side it was almost as if her eyes screamed, just talk to me. I knew in that moment she wanted it to feel normal. She wanted to hear about the new things my son was doing and she wanted to tell me about all the new things her baby girl was eating.
She needed normal.
And so I sat there and talked to her like it was any other day, and she smiled and even slowly chuckled every so often. There were so many things I wanted to say. I wanted to tell her how much I loved her. I wanted to say I was sorry for every single fight we had. I wanted to hold her tight and never let go. I wanted to fight this fight for her and take away all her pain. But she wanted normal...she needed to talk to a friend like we would at a play date on any other Thursday morning where we would sit drinking our coffees, ready to dish on all life's latest events. So as she asked questions, I did my best to answer without any tears. My throat was tight and dry and many times I was close to breaking down any second. But I knew she needed me to be strong. So I gripped her hand and I swallowed my sorrow. Instead I soaked in her voice and when she would start to nod off from exhaustion I studied her face. She was so beautiful, and vibrant even when she was so terribly ill.
As I got in my car, getting ready to leave, I laid my head back on the seat and cried tears that nearly burned my face. I wanted to run back in and sputter off everything that would make ME feel better, because I was so petrified that she didn't know. I was scared she didn't know how much I loved her and how much our friendship meant to me. I was afraid she didn't know how sorry I was for stupid comments I have made or things I had done to hurt her during our 28 years of friendship. I was so desperate to hold her and cry with her, like I had done so many times in the past. But this time was different. This time she needed me to be the strong one. This time she needed me look past her sickness and her frail body and see her for who she truly was. A loving mom, an incredible daughter, a devoted wife, a faithful friend, an amazing teacher, a loyal sister.
So, as I left her house, knowing it might be the last time, and when my last words didn't feel like nearly enough.. I forced myself to remember her smile and her sweet voice. I remembered the longer than usual yet frail hug, and I remembered the last squeeze of the hand as we both looked each other in the eyes, both holding back tears. As the years have gone by that day still pulls at my heart. I have wondered how I could have fit in a few more I love you's and I'll never forget you's. I even have gone to her mom saying I wish I had said so much more.. And her mom simply responded, "She knew." It was at that moment that I realized that our actions truly do speak louder than words. I can only pray that she knew that day, sitting by her bedside, I tried so hard to give her normal in the midst of heartache, to show her just how much I loved her. I pray that my actions spoke louder than words in those last moments with her.
I share this with you all, because I know many of you have also experienced painful loss. To those of you who may be struggling, and feeling that your last words just were not enough, I ask you this.. If all words were set aside (good and bad), would they know you loved them? If they could only see your actions, which ultimately reflected what was deep within your heart, could they see how much you loved them? If the answer is yes, then there are no words that could have replaced the love that you made them feel in the moments they needed it most. So in those times of uncertainty and regret, please never forget.. They knew.