Someone in our family called a few weeks ago to tell us she has breast cancer. By God’s grace it is very slow growing and treatable. When she called to tell me I ended our phone call by saying “I love you.” I have known this family member for almost thirty years and yet I’m not sure the last time I told her I loved her. I tell close friends that I love them. I tell my kids and my husband that I love them every day. What is it about cancer, sickness and funerals that makes us finally tell family members who we love, that we love them? Why do I tell and genuinely mean “I love you” to some godly women I just met at a retreat this weekend, but it is so hard with family sometimes?
I think one reason is that many of us didn’t grow up hearing or saying I love you. It wasn’t that our parents didn’t love us and we didn’t love them. I just think most people our parents’ age didn’t grow up saying it or hearing it. I don’t think I even remember my parents saying I love you to each other and they just celebrated their 47thwedding anniversary (generally, though not always, 47 years together is a pretty good sign that maybe two people love each other). The other reason I think it is easier to say I love you to friends, to my kids or to a sweet woman I met this weekend named Wydia (who I want be when I grow up), is because I’m the weird Jesus person in my family. The last thing I want to do is weird everyone out more by telling them I love them when clearly, it’s understood. I don’t want them to think I’m taking the whole, What Would Jesus Do thing too far. No seriously, this is another reason I can tell lots of people besides my family that I love them. Weird Jesus family members don’t want to stand out more than they already do at Thanksgiving. Every weird Jesus person knows that.
But fortunately, it didn’t sit well with me hearing myself tell my sweet family member two weeks ago, “I love you” for the first time in a very long time. It didn’t sit well with me that this is what it takes for me to quit worrying about what everyone else thinks. It didn’t sit well with me that I just lost an aunt last week and I don’t know that I ever told her that I loved her. It doesn’t sit well with me that now it is too late.
“Dear Lord, thank you for my family. I am sorry that it took cancer to remind me that I need to tell the people I love in my family that I love them. Lord, you know one of my biggest fears in life is to look back at the end of it and have regret. Thank you for reminding me that no regret can come from telling the people I love them, but that great remorse can come from failing to do so. Please bless my family today, especially my uncle and cousins who lost their wife and mom last week. In our pain however, and in our gratitude of catching at least one of these cancers early, thank you that we love and appreciate the people in our lives a little more so. God, help me say I love you when it is uncomfortable, when I’m afraid of what others will think and help me to say it now rather than later. In Your Name, Amen.”