I never learned to say I love you
Happiness is something that multiplies when it is divided – Paulo Coelho
I rarely told my parents I loved them. They had a hard time doing it too so they never taught us. A couple of months before my mother died, my brother and I visited my parents’ house. Before we were heading out again, my mother told us she loved us. While walking towards the door, my brother grunted softly. I gave my mother a hug, copying her words, although I don’t exactly remember.
Another time she told us she was proud of the kids she had brought into the world. And that made me happier than hearing ‘I love you’ a thousand times.
Though my family had other ways of expressing love. My mother would cook our favourite meals on our birthday. She would always celebrate big moments like failing a driver’s test (she expected me to pass, we ate the cake anyway). Telling us she was proud of us, so many times. Telling us to go out and do our own thing, explore the world, explore life.
“Don’t feel obligated to visit me when I’m in the hospital,” she would say, after another therapy session. But I did, and I tried to go as much as I could. I didn’t want her to feel alone. What is supposed to keep you going after five different types of treatments over a course of 10 years and still lose the battle? She never wanted me and my brother to feel bothered by her illness and she hid a lot of her feelings when we were around. Only after she died I found out she was extremely angry for knowing she was going to die.
I wish I had known that. I wish I had the opportunity to tell her I loved her, and be there for her.
The night before she died I sat next to her bed in a chair, holding her hand. I slept a little but I couldn’t leave her side. She squeezed my hand now and then, telling me she knew I was there. All of the love I had, I transferred to her by holding her hand. There was nothing else I could do. There was nothing else she had wanted me to do.
Only recently I started to tell my friends how much they mean to me and it brings me a lot more joy than I expected. Expressing it, but also hearing it from them. It doesn’t have to be those exact words, things like ‘I love spending time with you’ is just as heart-warming. Realizing what words like these can do, a small way of acknowledging you are happy for having someone in your life, makes me regret not expressing this to my parents more often. Though by writing about them and telling their stories I hope to have found a way after all.