From childhood on, we are inundated with the promise of tomorrow. Annie sings in her musical, “The sun’ll come out/Tomorrow/ So ya gotta hang on/’Til tomorrow/Come what may.” So, we learn from an early age that all we have to do is get through today, and tomorrow everything will be better, or, at least, it might be. It’s an implied promise, and it’s a false one because there just might not be a tomorrow.
I don’t mean to sound all doom and gloomy, but I do want to impress upon you that you won’t always have a tomorrow to say the things you wish you’d said today or do the things you wish you’d done. You have to say what you want and do what you want today.
One night in March 1970, my mom came to kiss me goodnight. She had been annoying me all evening, yelling at me for washing my hair. I told her that I was 18 years old and could wash my hair without her permission. We went round and round, neither of us giving ground, and by the time she came to say goodnight, I was in no mood for a goodnight kiss. For the first time in my life, I told her no kiss that night.
My mom came to my room twice more. The second time she told me that I needed to kiss her so that I wouldn’t have any regrets. All that did was make me angrier. I told her that she was only 39 years old and that I’d have thousands of days to kiss her, but I was NOT going to kiss her that night no matter what she said. She looked at me so sadly, far out of proportion for what was going on. Little did I know.
The next morning, I heard a strange sound. It was a gunshot. My mother had killed herself, and we would share no more goodnight kisses.
Not kissing my mother goodnight on her, unbeknownst to me at the time, last night alive affected me deeply. It changed me profoundly. I determined that I would let people know that I care about them. I would tear down my protective wall. A risky behavior on my part, one that leaves me vulnerable to possible hurt and rejection because many people want to keep their walls up to protect their feelings and don’t want their protective walls scaled. I had to learn to share my feelings while not storming others’ barricades. I had to find ways to connect. I absolutely refused to let anyone else die before I told him/her that I cared.
To this end, I always hug and kiss good-bye and goodnight. When I love a person, I say so. When I like someone, I hug. No one, and I mean no one, is going to wonder about my feelings. I am big into good-bye waves. I wave until a car filled with friends and/or family members is out of sight. I blow kisses. I send cards. Friends call me a rememberer. I make sure that I leave nothing important unsaid, and probably, as a consequence, share too much unimportant stuff, but that’s a small price to pay for making sure the important stuff is said. When I die, I’ll be sad, but I’m not planning on having regrets for words left unspoken.
There is always tomorrow, until there isn’t, and we don’t know when the “isn’t” is going to come. Death, mental illness, dementia, all things that take our loved ones away from us, usually come when least expected, and they do not announce their intentions to rob us of our loved ones. So, when you like someone give a hug, when you love someone share your feelings. If we say it today, we won’t have to worry about there being a tomorrow.