Say what you mean to say

Say what you mean to say

Hey, friends. I started to write this before Christmas and couldn’t get the words out. The holiday season is a recent memory, but I’m still swapping stories with friends about fraught family encounters—gatherings filled with family drama fueled by sentiments left unsaid for too long. I’d intended to post this then, as a note to self to not let the important things go unspoken. But there’s really nothing seasonal about this, so here goes. 

In October, in North Carolina, I couldn’t sleep, but I didn’t mind as much as I should have. If you’re an avid reader, as I am, a sleepless night has its upside: lots and lots of pages read. I couldn’t sleep, so I took my novel to the bathroom (so as not to wake my friend), and read the last hundred pages sitting on the cold tile, my back resting against the tub.

The book was Maggie O’Farrell’s This Must Be the Place, our February MMD Book Club pick, though I didn’t know that at the time. I love the way O’Farrell portrays an intricate web of family relationships, and how she deftly illustrates how when it comes to the people we love, the smallest moments matter.

In the book, an otherwise unconnected character visits for a brief interlude, a messenger of sorts. This woman—a 68-year-old whose life has not gone as she planned, nor as she wished—shares an important conversation with our protagonist. (On a mountain top, if I remember correctly. Make of that what you will.) The woman’s marriage has ended, and badly, and she explains her theory: “marriages end not because of something you did say but because of something you didn’t.” In her relationship, something important had gone unsaid. With time, the damage became irremediable.

(So all I have to do now is work out what he didn’t say? That’s it? our protagonist asks. “Were you not listening?” she says. “It’s not exactly straightforward.”)

I finished the book in the bathroom that night. If I had to endure a sleepless night, I couldn’t have done any better.

*****

I loved this book so much, and wanted to read it with the MMD Book Club—there’s so much to discuss, about the things that really matter: family, relationships, choices, actions, destiny, hope, courage, dealing with all the crap life throws you.

But one thing gave me pause. Two things, really. First, our inciting incident is a little far-fetched, but I can easily forgive one far-fetched encounter in a novel. But there’s a second, much later in the book, a random act of violence in a neighborhood drugstore. A person is shot and killed; the family is undone.

O’Farrell subsequently explores what grief does to people, to families—and she does it really well. The novel worked. But I wondered if this invented scene was perhaps a bit too dramatic, for a novel obviously seeking to tell real truths about characters so real they could be our friends, our neighbors, our own family. I enjoyed the novel so much, but this scene nagged at me.

*****

Two weeks later, our friend was shot and killed. “There’s no easy way to say this,” my husband said, before he told me the news. “That’s impossible,” I said. “He just got back from his honeymoon.”

And he had. But less than twenty-four hours later, he was shot and killed in front of his new wife, a random act of violence. It was a robbery attempt gone horribly wrong: a 15-year-old pulled the trigger, a 13-year-old drove the getaway car. If O’Farrell had put this scene in her novel, I’m not sure I would have found it believable. I see myself wondering: isn’t this scene a bit too dramatic, for characters so obviously meant to be people we could actually encounter in our real lives?

*****

We weren’t at his wedding. The last time I saw our friend was over a year ago, drinking bourbon on our old back patio. Our friend loved bourbon. At the visitation, I told his mom about our last visit, and she smiled, saying that sounded exactly like him.

It did sound like him. But I should have seen him much more recently.

The night I should have seen our friend, we were hanging out at home. He was in the neighborhood; Will ran outside to get something and bumped into him on the sidewalk. He popped his head inside and said, “Anne, do you want to come say hi?” But it was well past dark and I was already in my pajamas, cozied on the couch with my book. Changing into jeans sounded like hard work. “Tell him hey for me,” I said.

I regret that now. How hard is it to put on pants?

*****

I’ve been thinking about what if lately. What if we said what we meant to say, what we wanted to say, what we really thought and felt—kindly, of course, or as kindly as we could manage—to the people in our lives? What if we found the courage (or end-of-day energy) to say the things that shouldn’t go unsaid? What if we let the important unsaid things drive the plots of novels instead of the narratives of our lives? What if I’d grabbed a coat and headed outside in my pjs, and told my friend it was good to see him?

It wouldn’t have changed anything, really, but it would have changed me.

111 comments

  1. I don’t have the words to eloquently convey how your words changed me. I am not the same person as I was 3 minutes ago. Thank you for having the courage to share this. I will be keeping you and yours close to my heart as you deal with such a heartbreaking loss.

    • Kristine Toone says:

      Yes ^^^ this. Thank you for putting these words together. My husband was hit by a car while cycling 2 months ago, and there was a brief time when I thought he might be dead. I’m rocked to my core thinking back to that deep emotion that gripped me in those moments. I think what you just captured is part of my ache. We live rather selfish lives, and it’s so easy to get wrapped up in our own head and moments and busyness. But we cannot know what the future holds, and it’s precarious, but we can know that we’ve said what we wanted to say. And we can know that we’ve spoken the love and the grace and the forgiveness that longs to be said… no matter what the future holds. Beautiful thought. I’m so sorry for the loss of your friend. Praying grace would surround all those who loved him.

  2. Connie Weiss says:

    I’m so sorry Anne. All we can ever do is hope we are doing everything we can have the least number of regrets. And if we do, learn from them.

  3. Dee says:

    This makes me ache for you. It makes me think about how people say to live your life like it’s your last day. Similarly, I guess, like it’s everyone’s last day. But that’s hard. Life has to be lived.

  4. Linda says:

    I’m so sorry you have lost your friend. Thank you for sharing this and for letting others learn from it. However, with time, please give yourself grace. I think your friend would want that.

  5. Erin says:

    I live in Louisville and am familiar with your friend’s story. My heart broke when I read about it. I am so sorry, Anne.
    As I sit here now with very little distraction, I know that life is lived in the present and we should always come as we are. But when I am in motion and the distractions begin, I so easily forget both of those things. I try to make space for knowing that is life, too–remembering, forgiveness, and beginning again.

    • Steph says:

      I’m so sorry. I, too, live in Louisville and heard the story. I often run with my dog and/or baby and it really made me struggle with “what ifs.” Thanks for helping me put some things in perspective and to realize all the good things in my life.

  6. S says:

    This is the best post you have written…beautiful and so relevant. Sometimes we don’t say something because we are afraid, or busy, or we forget during our busy days…but we should say them, kindly, and not hold back due to fear, or because we are distracted, or we think we will get to it soon, or our response seems too late. Regret is hard to live with.

  7. Mackenzie says:

    I am so sorry for your family and everyone who was affected by the loss of your friend. I can really relate to your story. On my brother-in-laws 21st birthday, I was annoyed with him for showing up late and making everyone wait to go out and celebrate. I had to work early the next morning, and didn’t plan on going with them. When he arrived, I was dozing on the couch and yelled out happy birthday without getting up to see him. Two days later, he unexpectedly took his own life, and I will always regret the moments I didn’t share with him because of my poor attitude.

  8. Heather says:

    So sorry for your loss. Thank you for what must have been a very difficult post to write, especially when the loss of your friend is so fresh. May you find peace in sharing your story.

  9. Heather Kowalski says:

    Wow, thank you Anne. This is a beautiful post. I am trying not to cry while I read this at work as it touches on issues I have grappled with after the death of my father in 2016. You put what I have been thinking into much better words than I could. I am sorry for the loss of your friend but I thank you for writing something so timely and heartfelt.

  10. Candace Harrison says:

    With tears on my face, I want to thank you for sharing, and reminding us to take advantage of every opportunity we have to connect with the people in our lives. I don’t believe in chance encounters… but neither do I always act upon them. I am so sorry for your friend’s tragic passing.

  11. Sydney says:

    Wow, Anne. Beautifully written. I am so sorry for your loss and your heartache. Thank you for sharing this with us. I won’t forget these words anytime soon.

  12. Diana says:

    I’m so sorry for the loss of your friend and that violence was brought into your heart.
    We are only human and as much as we might try, we won’t always do what in hindsight we should have done. Give yourself grace, Anne.

  13. Audrey Bretz says:

    My dad was in a nursing home for the last few months of his life. My mother went to see him every afternoon and ate supper with him. One of my siblings or myself would go over every evening to pick her up and visit with my Dad. One night it was my turn to pick her up and I met her in the doorway of the dining room. I was tired from working that day and when she asked me if I wanted to go in and say hello to Dad I told her that I’d see him tomorrow. I was tired and just wanted to go home. As you said ‘how hard would it have been?’. That night he went into a coma and died a few days later. I do have many regrets but I’ve worked on overcoming them, telling myself that I spent so much time with him prior to that evening and there’s nothing I can do now to change things. I feel badly for your loss. I hope we all realize how fast things can change and maybe say those things that we should.

  14. Melissa Osigian says:

    Anne, I am so sorry for your loss and pray that the God of all comfort will give you peace. This post brought tears to my eyes and is truly your best one yet. You have shown great courage by sharing.

  15. Carolyn says:

    Thank you for sharing this, and I am so sorry. This is something I have been contemplating lately, and you hit the nail home. So much to consider…

    I am a high school librarian, and we recently lost a sweetheart in a car accident. I had seen her the day before, and I hadn’t spoken to her as I often did. I hadn’t spoken to her at all lately. She came in on a mission. She sat at “her” table, worked, and left, while I sat in my chair and worked or helped other students. I regret not speaking to her, just to say “hi.”

    On the other hand, ten years ago, I was in the classroom. One day had been especially tough, and I had resolved to get out of my room for lunch. I started to leave when I noticed one student just sitting there after all the others had left for the cafeteria. I nearly left anyway because he was trustworthy, but something told me to stay. We talked, and I learned that he was struggling with news his dad had given him the night before–news that left him in the mode of being the head of the family soon at 15 years old. I had no words, really. I just listened. He never made it to school again. He was killed in a bus accident the next morning. I treasure that decision I made that one day, but I don’t live by it. I wish I could say that I did.

  16. Renae says:

    I’m so very sorry for your loss…and sorry that you have this internal struggle you’re now dealing with. It IS unbelievable, and yet you have lived it. There will always be regret when someone passes, but as long as you can remember the times when you connected with this person, laughed with him, hugged him, gave him a smile, THOSE are the moments that you should be reflecting on, NOT the one time you didn’t put on pants. I pray you will find peace with this. I imagine your interactions with those close to you are different and more intentional now and that in itself is a gift.

  17. Meghan says:

    Oh, Anne, I’m so sorry for your loss. It’s hard for us introverts to say what’s on our hearts. I hope you find some peace, and thanks for sharing your story.

    I had a close family friend who died of cancer a couple of years ago — I wrote her a letter when she was in hospice, telling her the things I should have been saying all along. Someone read the letter to her before she died, but my biggest regret was waiting until she was literally breathing her last breaths to tell her things she should have heard while she was able to enjoy them and live with them.

    Anyway, it called to mind the motto from Howard’s End, “Only connect”, which became my motto that year and one I try not to forget (it’s hard!).

    PS I adored This Must Be The Place — Maggie O’Farrell is one of my auto-buys.

    • Anne says:

      It’s been so long since I read Howard’s End, I had completely forgotten that! Thanks so much for sharing the story about your letter to your friend.

  18. Susan Becker says:

    Anne: Thank you for this moving, honest and wise post. I’m guessing that nearly every one of us who reads it will relate it to some time(s) in our own lives that have left us wishing we had stepped up and said things that we later regretted having left unsaid. Among my own such times was the shocking death of a best friend when I was 21 at the hands of her boyfriend, the aftermath of which was filled for me with so many “If only I had” thoughts.

    At any rate, I almost read your post, felt it deeply, and then moved on, letting others comment, but then took to heart its message of not letting things go unsaid–so here I am saying thank you for such a meaningful post and with heart aching for the loss of your friend.

  19. Adrienne Hudson says:

    Oh Anne, you made me cry. I rarely ever cry over a blog post, but I’m sitting here sniffling. What a poignant post, and a valuable lesson learned and shared. I am so sorry about your friend’s tragic passing, and hope you find comfort and peace.

  20. Grace says:

    Thank you for writing this. I am so sorry to hear of your loss, and I thank you for trusting your readers and sharing this with us.

  21. This might be my favorite thing you’ve ever said. Praying for you and the family of your friend. Too often we think it won’t happen to us… and then it does and we wonder how to pick up the pieces.

  22. Libby says:

    I relate to this so much. There are so many times in life, recently, where I can’t turn off the English major in me. In November the family was sitting vigil over my Grandfather-in-law who had suffered an aortic aneurysm. All I kept thinking was, “No, this is not how THIS character will die. It doesn’t make any sense.” But he did. Even though it just didn’t seem realistic. It’s the most realistic.
    Everything I Never Told You did this same thing to me–it set up this mindset of speaking even when it would be easier for things to go unsaid. Even if you think the person knows what you mean. Say it. Just always say it.

    Thank you for this. I’m sorry you lost your friend. <3

  23. Ripple says:

    This is so moving… I am sorry to hear about your friend. I hope you’re doing fine. But the message coming out of your post is really incredibly moving. And it’s funny but since yesterday I hear the death topic all the time (today on the radio they were talking about writing down your last will even when you’re young) that it’s almost impossible. And it slowly hits me – we never know. We never know what our last word are going to be, how people are going to remember us when we’re not here anymore, when we’re going to see them next (if we’re going to see them at all). Life could be short – like really short. And the worst (but at the same time the best) thing is that we just don’t know… Thank you for sharing this with us.

    With kindness

  24. Natalie says:

    So sorry for your loss Anne.
    A beautifully written sentiment, and an important reminder.
    Just before Christmas we lost my brother suddenly. There are a lot of things I wish I’d said. I know he “knew” how much we loved him, but why didn’t we say it more? Why were we able to make 2 trips to see him in the hospital and at his funeral when we couldn’t manage the 7 hour drive over the last 4 summers? Why didn’t we have more time, and why didn’t we make more time?

  25. This is a heart-breaking post to read, but it’s going to stay with me for a long time. I hate that we need reminders to say what we need to say, but the truth is that we do need reminders. My family wasn’t big on saying “I love you” when I was growing up. We are of German decent and just kind of hold our feelings closer as a result, I think. But when I was in college, my boyfriend’s roommate lost his dad very very suddenly to a heart attack. My relationship with that boyfriend fizzled and he isn’t someone that I thought of much after the break-up. But the experience of seeing his roommate suddenly lose his dad changed me. After that, I always said “I love you” at the end of every phone call or every time I saw my parents or siblings. I know they knew I loved them, but I never wanted to be in the position where I regretted not saying it to them.

    But now this post is reminding me again to keep showing up and to keep saying what I need to say to others in my life. I am so very sorry for your loss. I am a newlywed (married in May) and I can not even FATHOM losing my husband – especially before my eyes in such a tragic way. My hurt hurts for you, your friend, his wife and his family. Be sure to give yourself grace, though, because we make all these small day to day decisions out of exhaustion, boredom, or being overwhelmed in the moment. And I am sure your friend would never hold it against you that you didn’t come out and say hi. But it’s harder to accept that yourself that it is for your readers to tell you to forgive yourself and give yourself grace.

  26. Anne, thank you for sharing this. I read that book over Christmas, and I couldn’t believe the number of times I unexpectedly found tears running down my cheeks. It was such a reminder to never take things for granted. I finished the book and vaulted myself at my husband. His concern was evident; my puffy eyes made him think something was seriously wrong. I managed to sob out, “I’m sorry,” which didn’t help his confusion. “I’m sorry for ever presuming you know what I’m thinking, how I’m feeling, or not saying thank you, or I love you, or that I appreciate you more than I’ve ever appreciated anyone. I think it but how would you know, really KNOW, unless I say it?”

    He squeezed a bit tighter, and thanked me for saying so. “It means a lot,” he said. “It’s important to feel appreciated.”

    Thank you, Anne. Without your recommendation, this isn’t the kind of book I would have picked up. I highly, highly recommend This Must Be the Place. It helped me form my new year’s resolutions very firmly on nourishing and nurturing relationships – with my family, with my friends, with myself, with my God.

    Thank you.

  27. Alison says:

    Beautiful writing, moving words. Thank you for sharing your heart. I’m so sorry for the loss of your friend. I hope you can give yourself grace (as others have suggested) and forgive yourself for that one last lost moment.

    I believe when friends and family leave this earth, the act of remembering them is an act of love. I hope your memories of your friend will bring you comfort.

  28. Lisa says:

    Louisvillian here and I too am familiar with your story. Such a sad thing! Thank you for expressing yourself so well and making us all think about the “what if’s” of life. As I get older I think about this much more than when I was younger, but most of the time I don’t do anything about it or follow through (like go put on my jeans and say hi)! Maybe this will be my New Years “resolution”!

  29. “It would have changed me…” what a powerful statement.
    I am so sorry for your loss. But in that pain, thank you for sharing this. A couple of unexpected losses this past year have left me yearning, with unexpressed feelings. This expresses it, that those things I had not yet said now could not be said. Thank you for the reminder and the encouragement.
    Be gentle with your soul. I’m sure your friend knew your heart.

  30. Colleen says:

    What a beautiful post. Truly one of your best. As others have said, I am very sorry for your loss. Thank you for channeling it into a message you’ve shared with us.

  31. Death is an unwelcome guest in our lives and this loss was particularly tragic. You can’t think of the “what if’s” but concentrate on the “what was” remembering the worthy things that made your friend special to you. But, I would say that not forgetting those we love and lost is very important. It reaffirms their sweet existence to you and to their families. Life lessons can be hard. Prayers for you sweet Anne.

  32. Deb Coco says:

    There aren’t words for this tragedy. I think the most difficult thing to come to terms with is the randomness of our universe. I am so sorry for this loss . . .hopefully sharing it helps you move forward. This type of thing shakes us to our core; hang in there.

  33. Tracy Martorana says:

    This was so beautiful, it brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing this very personal post. It was incredibly touching and thought provoking…your words will stick with me. XO

  34. K says:

    When you wrote “I wondered if this invented scene was perhaps a bit too dramatic,” I immediately thought, “Oh, no, not too dramatic. Reality for too many.” Thank you for telling us about this book, I will seek it out. And please know that you and your friends are in my prayers as you process your grief. It is hard. No doubt about it. But you can do it. Choose love. — Mom and Teacher in Newtown, CT

  35. Kristen says:

    I learned a few years ago when my brother passed away that we must give ourselves grace from the what if’s. Life is life, and it’s oh so precious…just try to live without many regrets, but if you have regrets, give yourself grace and forgiveness and learn from those regrets. Grace is essential.

    I’m so so sorry about your friend. What a terrible, senseless tragedy (and by kids, at that…horrible for all involved).

    Thinking of you.

  36. SoCalLynn says:

    Truth is stranger than fiction. You are so right, you just never know when your last conversation is with someone you love. A little over 5 years ago my dad was taking one last ride on his motorcycle on his quiet country road when someone ran the only stop sign for miles around and collided with my dad, then took off. My dad died instantly. I can’t help but forever think of my life in terms of before that horrible, horrible day, and everything that has happened after. Always tell your loved ones how you feel.

  37. Kristen says:

    This post couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time in my life. I just lost my grandfather a week ago, and the grief is hitting so hard now that we’re on the other side of his funeral. Even though we had a great relationship and proper goodbyes and “I love yous” were said, I still think about the things I wish I’d done. I’ve felt this desperation to snuggle my children tighter each night before they go to sleep, to say “I love you” more, to let my people know how important they are. Thinking of you, and thank you for sharing.

  38. Peggy says:

    Beautifully written, Ann. Thank you for sharing such an valuable perspective. By far, my favorite post of yours to date.
    Blessings –
    pk

  39. Lori says:

    Your last line absolutely slays me. “It wouldn’t have changed anything, really, but it would have changed me.”

    Heavy sobs. What an important way to look at things. I cannot go back, but I will surely carry this advice forward. Thank you for sharing. I am sorry for the loss of your friend. xo

  40. Kelsey says:

    I’m so sorry for the loss of your friend, Anne. How devastating for his new wife. Praying for comfort and healing for everyone. Thanks for sharing this important reminder with your readers.

  41. Anne – Sometimes the blog posts where we find it hardest to get the words out, are the ones that most need to be written. Both for ourselves and the readers. While I know it is hard to escape the pull of “what if” in a situation like this, I also know the most important thing we can do for ourselves in a situation like this is to allow room for grace. Grace for yourself, and grace for the “what ifs”.

  42. Jennifer V says:

    Anne, I’ve just left my friend’s funeral. I came home, reheated some lunch, and sat down to check email while I ate. Such timing to find this post in my inbox. You’ve said just what I’m feeling today. I hadn’t seen this friend in over a year, had only exchanged light comments on social media in that time. How I wish I could go back and have coffee with her, play a game, discuss our favorite fandoms. My friend was a beautiful, kind, loving person. I will miss her so much. Why did I not think to connect with her even once this past year?

  43. Gina says:

    Anne, I am so sorry for you, your family and your friend’s family. What a horrible tragedy – so heartbreaking. I know how devastating it can be to lose a close friend suddenly. It takes over your life for a while and is all consuming. Thank you so much for sharing your story. This is such important advice for all of us to remember.

  44. Diana says:

    I’m so sorry for the loss of your friend! Thank you for sharing the tough emotions. I’ve definitely had the “but I don’t want to put on real pants” battle with myself, sometimes the “easy” option isn’t the easy one in the long run but it’s impossible to know when and how that will matter.

  45. How heartbreaking; I’m so sorry for your loss. It’s tragic that your friend was murdered in front of his new wife in such a senseless way. It’s also tragic that the young criminals have never been taught to value, cherish, and respect life.

    Many times real life is stranger than fiction, with some events resembling penny dreadfuls.

    I’m looking forward to reading This Must Be the Place in February with the MMD book club. The irony of your situation makes me sad for you and your friends and family.

    (((((hugs))))) from Alabama, and thanks for such a thoughtful, well-written post.

  46. There are so many Times we in our lives have to regret and wonder about what if. The thing that troubled me and my former husband was when his mother died. It’s 44 years ago but i and he still wonder what if. She had cancer in the lungs and had been send home on the friday to die. We were not told by his sister and my father in law. We were 20 years old. On saturday afternoon she samt in ger favourite chair and said ” I Think i am dying” We said of Course you are not dying. We had planned for some time to spend that night with friends, so we went away. She never woke up the next morning. Why was we not told, why didnt we stay Home and spent those last hours with her? We asked why why why? , the answer we got was , “we didnt want to frighten you and that Mama feel she was a bruden on you. Well so many years later i still feel what if, first of all för the very Young man of those Days.The experience he had when waked up and told mother is dead almost broke him.
    But the other side of the coin of what you Said there is a relative close to me that i have tried to talk to so many times, he never even tries to listen and still go on hurting me. My best friend once told him how he behaves.Now she is för him one of those women that has a rage issue, and tell her husband that he feels sorry for him. So to have a talk is not always an answer

  47. Suzanne Watkins says:

    What a touching tribute to your friend! That may not be what you intended, but reading your words, I felt the pain and also gained an understanding of how your friend’s life can continue to make a difference in the lives of others, even those of us who did not know him. Thank you for sharing this story; I am so sorry for your loss and am looking within to see how I can make changes to ensure that I don’t leave things unsaid. Prayers for your friend’s wife and family!

  48. Jennifer says:

    Oh, Anne! So terrible and heartbreaking, and yet so beautiful and true. Thank you for sharing this with us. I’m bowled over by your honesty and perception and all the comments that follow.

  49. Carrie says:

    Anne, this was so heartfelt. I’m glad that you posted the story, sad as it is. I have been in a solemn mood today thinking about people I have lost in my life. Then, I read your post and felt so badly for your loss. I hope you find comfort in how many people care about you and gain wisdom from your words.

  50. Kim says:

    This was very beautifully written. Yesterday, a friend of mine who has been through it lately was texting me and asked how I was. I debated and then honestly answered it had been a rough week. People want to know the truth even if it is hard for us to admit or we have to open ourselves up.

  51. Laetitia Michau says:

    Anne, thanks so much for this confirmation.
    I read this 5 minutes after I was considering whether I could tell a colleague (I work in government in a very secular NZ) that I have her in my prayers since her mom just passed away. I did eventually tell her that in the email and then read your blog and knew, IT WAS THE RIGHT DECISION!

  52. Amy says:

    While I always looooove your book posts, it’s your examined life posts that hooked me from the start. Pretty sure we are kindred spirits. Thank you for sharing this vulnerable piece of your life with us. <3

  53. Lisa says:

    Thank you for writing this post. It must have been hard to share something so personal, and I am grateful that you did. This post will stick with me, I can tell.

  54. Elizabeth says:

    wow, how intense for you and how difficult. May God comfort you in this. and God remember your friend in His Kingdom! and comfort his newly wedded wife :(… how tragic all of that is!!! Lord have mercy!

  55. Rose Booth says:

    Anne, this is beautiful. And though I didn’t know your friend personally, I have friends and co-workers who did. For weeks, I couldn’t stop thinking about his wife, and even today, she comes to my mind. Someone I never met. Dwell on those good times…on your back patio…and not on the what ifs. The what ifs are what keep us from experiencing the yet to comes. Hugs!!

  56. Donna H. says:

    That’s so heartbreaking, I’m sorry for your loss. I’m sure it was hard to write about it but you can see from the comments how this is touching so many of us and reminding us about what really matters. I will think about this post and remind myself to think about ‘what if’ even if it’s just ‘what if I act kinder today’. Thank you for sharing your story.

  57. Kelly Lang says:

    WoW! I am not sure what to say. It is true that sometimes we think that all of us will live forever and have all the time in the world to say these things. Reminds me of when my daughter was 3 and wanted cookies after dinner, I said no because she hadn’t eaten much of her dinner. Fast forward 12 hours later, we were in a horrific accident and all I could think about was that I denied her those cookies. Luckily, she lived to eat many, many more cookies! Hugs to you!

  58. Eva says:

    Anne,
    This post touched me in ways that I can never explain. My husband lost both his parents in a car accident when he was just 11 months old. His dad’s parents raised him, his twin brother, his sister (almost 3), and his oldest brother (almost 8 or 9). His dad’s mom lived with regrets the rest of her life of 30+ years for what she didn’t tell his parents as they were heading back home after dropping off the kids.
    Anne, as so many people have already expressed, please give yourself grace for the “what-ifs.”

  59. Elizabeth Garcia says:

    What a tragic story, not just the incredibly heartbreaking loss,of,your friend, but also the loss of those two young people’s lives. I can’t help, but wonder what had gone so horribly wrong in their lives that they would find themselves committing such violence.

  60. Debi Morton says:

    I had my haircut today, and the dear friend who does my hair lost her mom just before Christmas. Today was the first I had seen her since. We talked about missing her mom, and having no regrets. Did that mean she had never done anything she wished she hadn’t in her relationship with her mom? No, there was a period in her life that she certainly wishes had never happened. But she has moved on from there; her mom knew how very much she loved her; and she knew she couldn’t go back and change anything. She and her mom had both known they were loved by the other when her mom took her last breath.
    I’m so sorry for your loss, Anne. But I hope you’ll be able to put that lost opportunity to speak behind you and cherish the memories of all the times you spent together. Those moments are where the blessings lie, and what your friend would want you to remember. Know you loved and were loved, and have no regrets.

  61. Erin Perry says:

    I am so sorry for you for the loss of your friend and his family’s loss. Thank you for sharing this post and the sentiment.

  62. Lynette says:

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful post. And thank you for creating this beautiful space. Your blog is a safe and lovely place, in the midst of a world that is often not. Saying a prayer of comfort for you and for all who loved and were touched by your friend.

  63. I’m so sorry to hear about your friend, but I love this post. It totally brought me to tears, as it should have. These types of essays are my favorites of all your writing ~ your introspection leads me to question things and come to understandings that I need. I too have been thinking “what if…” lately. What if these things that my friends do that bug me really didn’t matter? What if it were all OK? Certainly nothing on the scale that you describe here, but I’m lucky – it hasn’t come to that level. But your thoughts take me to the time when it does happen – will I have said or done the things that really matter, or will I have taken the easy way out? I want to echo what has been said above – be kind to yourself. Your writing prompted me to look up his story, and from what I see written about him, it seems like he would say the same…. in my opinion, this is one of the purposes for what happened – your sharing here has brought awareness to thousands of us. Thank you for being willing to be the vehicle for that.

  64. Annie McCloskey says:

    Anne, I am so sorry for your loss. Tragic. Thanks for so eloquently sharing your feelings. It will change my day for the better.

  65. Victoria says:

    The reminder to take a moment from your day to make someone else’s is a good one. I’m sorry for your loss.
    I’ve been thinking about this and I hope I manage to say it sensitively. You hear occasionally of the person who misses the plane/boat/train that then crashes. They attach great meaning to it, without remembering or assigning meaning to all the planes they’d caught by the skin of their teeth that didn’t crash. It’s natural and there probably a scientific word for it (like relevancy bias), the same way it is natural for humans to look for meaning where there is none. If you had been killed your friend may well have castigated himself for not coming to the door to see you, when really, there is no blame for action or inaction to be assigned here. I think that’s the reaction of a good person and good friend. But I think your friend would rather that you remembered the bourbon night more than the pyjama night. I know that won’t make you feel better now, but maybe in time. And I think you honour your friend by taking the time to tell your story to others to remind them that life is short. A mitzvah.

  66. Beautifully written, as always, and so true. I’m sorry for your loss and for the victim’s family, of course. There’s something so true about taking the extra time and effort to stay in the moment with friends and family, because no one knows whether it will be the last time we have that opportunity. Life can change in the blink of an eye.

  67. Kay says:

    This is a beautiful post, but I am so sorry for you losing your friend in this way. It is so true that that is left unsaid is often more important than what is said. I am a great fan of Maggie O’Farrell, and a couple of years ago chose one of her books, The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox for our book group. Sadly no one else loved it like I did. I started reading your blog very recently and really look forward to your posts. x

  68. Summer says:

    This morning I read the story of Jacob working with his mom to deceive Isaac. That episode, and the fallout from it, always makes me wince. There’s so many painful family dynamics portrayed. I sat for a while after reading that, thinking about marriage, families, being an adult child to aging parents, and the communication required for all three.
    And then I read your blog post. It went along with all the things I’d been pondering, and I thank you for sharing. I’m so sorry for the loss of your friend.

  69. Lori says:

    Dear Anne, First let me say how sorry I am for your loss. The loss of a friend can tear a hole in your heart so big it may feel impossible that it will ever close. I hope yours is patched with love and memories of your friend. Next, I have to say that it’s okay to stay in your pjs sometimes. I live in Napa, where wildfires devastated our hillsides and so many of my friends lost their homes–they were lucky because a home is not a life but it is still a loss. The fires came within a few miles of our home and we were ready to evacuate but were safe ultimately. As I spoke with friends about their losses–many of them were sleeping and got out of their homes without anything, including one friend who left wearing only a bathing suit and flipflops (it was October and cold). The threat of fires remained very real for a long time and I kept thinking we should have everything we loved ready to go out the door, but what if we weren’t home when they struck. Again, I know possessions are not the same as people, but what I found troubling was this idea I had that we should be prepared for the worst at all times. As I thought more about this, I realized that’s not a way to live. Yes, sometimes the last time we see someone it might be that perfect moment when you tell them how much you love them even if it’s not in words. And sometimes the last time we see someone the last words you spoke might have been in anger. But it isn’t that single moment that defines our love for them, it’s the collection of moments we spent together and all of the joy we had in each other’s company. And sometimes you don’t put on pants and you see that person a few days later for a beer and as you say goodbye you tell them you love them and sometimes you don’t put on pants and you don’t see them again and you have to not feel badly about that one time and instead think of all the other times you were in their company and the pleasure you took in those times.

    • Natalie says:

      Thank you Lori, I take great comfort from this: “But it isn’t that single moment that defines our love for them, it’s the collection of moments we spent together and all of the joy we had in each other’s company”.
      Very nicely said.

  70. Andrea says:

    I’m so very sorry for your loss, Anne. Thank you for sharing a piece of your heart. I think it will help all of us make better choices so we can live the kind of life we want to live. I would have done the same thing that night…you’re right, we should say what we mean to say and at the end of the day it’s the people around us that make life worth living. Sending love.

  71. Rebecca says:

    I’m so sorry for the loss of your friend. Five years ago this year, my twin boys were in the NICU, having been born nearly 3 months too early. I had spent nearly every minute with them in the hospital. I went home one night in July to spend the night at home and get a shower and a fresh change of clothes. One of my sons died that night and I have always regretted going home that night instead of spending every last moment I could with him. If I had known what I know now, I would have done it differently. However, throughout the years, I decided to give myself some grace. Our loved ones don’t want us to live with these regrets. They knew our love and one decision doesn’t change that. Thank you for so beautifully sharing your heart.

  72. Karen Floyd Shepherd says:

    Dear Anne,
    I am so sorry for the loss of your friend. Thank you so much for sharing this. I can see that you are feeling guilty about not going outside to see your friend, but please try not to. I’m sure your friend would not want you to. And there’s already too much in this world that, rightly or wrongly, imposes guilt on us. But you are right that we need to talk more to our family and friends, to tell them how we feel and what we think, to not let silence grow between us over unspoken things that need to be addressed, to share something that makes us happy, or that we find funny. We are not mind readers, however much we like to believe otherwise! If we don’t share things verbally we can become isolated strangers sharing a house.
    That you for your blog, and all the other things you do to inspire us and try to help us cope with this thing called Life.
    Karen

  73. Katia says:

    I’m sorry for your loss, Anne. Thank you for sharing this story with us. Your words have certainly left me with so much to ponder about the fragility of our lives and the lives of those close to us, as well as about regret.

  74. Toni-Jan Ifill says:

    Beautiful and deeply written. This brings back memories for me, and is a well timed reminder. Well done Modern Mrs. Darcy!
    I shall now add this book to my book list.
    Carry on!

  75. Amy Flett says:

    I am so sorry for your loss, Anne. Thank you for sharing these thoughts with us. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about not waiting to connect with people when I can do it today. A woman from our church has had a brain tumor for several years. She stayed with us (my parents are missionaries) after having the tumor surgically removed seven years ago; a couple of years ago, she decided she was done with treatment, and we knew it was only a matter of time. After I came home from traveling last summer, I intended to go visit her, but she’s from a rural community thirty or forty minutes down a dirt road—for part of the year, getting to her house would have meant a hike across a river as well—and it never seemed like a “convenient” time, so I kept putting it off. She died on January 8. I never did go to visit her. Your words at the end of this post resonate with me: visiting her “wouldn’t have changed anything, really, but it would have changed me.”

  76. Beth says:

    Thank you for sharing this with us. It is so beautifully expressed and we have all made similar choices to avoid inconvenience — I hope I will remember this next time I am tempted to make that choice.

  77. Camille says:

    I read this book after reading your blog post struck a chord. It took a couple chapters to get into it, but then I devoured it, fell in love and truly missed the characters when it was over. I loved this book. The story still lingers in my mind, days later – I had a book do that in a long time!

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