During college, I took the opportunity to leave no room for regrets when saying goodbye to a missionary woman named Carolyn, with whom I had grown very close during my senior year of college. She and her family were returning to the DR Congo to continue their missionary service. I had dated her daughter for a while, and she had become like a second mother to me. At a farewell party at her house, when it came time for me to leave, I gave her a brief side hug and then left. But as I drove away, I began to regret having given her such a casual hug, knowing that she was returning to Africa and that I wouldn’t see her again for a long time. I thought about turning around, but going back and saying goodbye to her again seemed silly. Yet my feelings of regret were so strong that I turned the car around anyway and headed back to her house. When I came through the door again, she gave me a puzzled look, and I explained. Then I gave her a long, heartfelt embrace before leaving, this time with tears in my eyes. That hug meant a lot to her—and to me as well. I felt good having no regrets about how I had said goodbye.
Many times we don’t get the chance to plan the goodbyes we say to people. When someone dies unexpectedly, living with regrets can be difficult, especially if you aren’t happy with the last interaction you had with that person before he or she died. On February 22, 2013, a very special woman in my life, Iva Speece, died of a massive stroke. Iva had been another second mother to me since my high school days. My brother had married her oldest daughter, and our families had always been very close. I was with her a few days before her death, at her grandson’s (my nephew’s) senior night basketball game. I hugged her when I first saw her, and I sat in front of her at the basketball game, but for some reason I didn’t talk to her very much that night. We all went out for pizza after the game, but I was in a hurry to get home, so we didn’t stay long. As we were leaving, I waved at everyone and took off without giving anyone a goodbye hug. Had I known that night was my last chance to talk to Iva, I would have hugged her and told her how much she meant to me. I regret that I didn’t do that, because a couple days later, she died.
You never know when your last conversation with someone will be. I rushed to see Iva in the hospital when I heard about the stroke, but she was nonresponsive, unable to talk with anyone. My youngest daughter Sammy, however, had had a different experience with Iva at my nephew’s basketball game. She told me about an awesome “last conversation” she had with Iva, in which she told Iva how growing up, she always thought that Iva was her grandmother. Because Iva always seemed to be at family functions, and because Iva was her cousin’s grandma, Sammy just assumed that Iva was her grandma, too. Sammy could tell that what she said really blessed Iva, who smiled a big smile and told Sammy that she would be proud to consider Sammy one of her grandkids.
REFLECTIONS: Decide to begin taking “leave-taking” with those you love very seriously, whether that be in person, on the phone, or by computer connection. Make it a point, if you have had a bad argument with someone you love or have lost your cool with someone you love, to make amends quickly, before you are left with regrets.
Do not boast about tomorrow,
for you do not know what a day may bring.