Don’t Wait Until Tomorrow to Say What Needs to be Said Today
For the last few days, our little country church did what we do best. We rallied around our grieving brothers and sisters. The visitation and funeral were held under our steeple, and it was our great privilege to set up chairs, bring food, wash dishes, play music, offer hugs, clear tables, set out Kleenex boxes, and pray.
We have a lot of elderly folks in our congregation, so we know what it takes to walk alongside families during these trying times.
But this good-bye was different in so many ways. Why? Because no one expected that we’d have to say goodbye to Charlie as soon as we did. Everyone in the room figured they’d have many more years of Charlie’s jokes, his entrepreneurial ideas, his wit, and more.
The fact that our time here on earth is limited often catches me by surprise like that. You end up thinking there’s more time, and you turn around to discover, … there isn’t.
Death inevitably snaps us back to the reality of life’s brevity. Death asks you to take the time, right now, to say what you need to say, to forgive whom you need to forgive, to take a step toward that unrealized dream.
Yesterday afternoon, I strolled around the sanctuary and lingered over the memorabilia that the family had set out. All of it was a meaningful way to remember a father, a husband, a son. There were framed photos, newspaper articles, sentimental artifacts. But the thing that stopped me the most were these: all the words this man left behind.
Through his words, we were granted permission to peer into the tender, hilarious, sentimental, poetic, extraordinary heart of a man named Charlie. There were journals, letters to loved ones, poems scratched with blue ink onto yellowing paper.
I ran my hand over his words, immortalized, and I kept thinking: Here’s a human being who remarkably didn’t seem to leave anything left unsaid. If someone needed love, he gave it. If he needed forgiveness, he asked for it. If he thought your heart longed for a poem, he wrote it. What a gift.
I was moved to tears by all these words.
What Needs to Be Said?
Standing there, his words pried something loose in me. Whether he intended this, I do not know, but Charlie seemed to ask us this question: What needs to be said?
In that moment, I knew this for sure: I don’t want to get to the end of my life and regret having never said what needed saying. I want to be like Charlie. I want to say what needs to be said, now. I want to love with wild abandon, now.
Hospice chaplain Kerry Egan says a lot of people talk to her about the last words they might say, when they die. She wonders if people have too many Hollywood, romanticized versions about what the end of a life will look like. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. For some, death — which might have seemed like a faraway rumor when you’re young — shows up like a surprise. And even if you know it’s coming, you might be unable to express your thoughts in the way you’d always hoped.
“If you had something so important to tell your loved ones that you feel the need to plan out what to say, then why would you wait to say it?” Egan asks.
Let’s not wait.
What words do you need to say? Find the strength to say them, today.
Let someone know you love them, now.
Make amends, now.
Send that letter, now.
Stand up for what you believe in, now.
Speak your dreams aloud, now.
I feel like it’s a bold Challenge from Charlie, who modeled love in a profoundly beautiful way.
Take the Challenge: Don’t wait until tomorrow to say what needs to be said today.
Maybe you’ve tried in the past, but the words won’t quite come. Maybe you’ve swallowed the words down, because you’re afraid of what they’ll say — or what they won’t say — in return.
Say it anyway.
In theory, I’ve always known the truth of saying what needs to be said. But these last few days, in the life of one man, I saw what it meant. I read his heart on his pages. But I also read his heart, imprinted on the hundreds of tear-streamed faces who walked through our church’s doors, in a standing-room-only sanctuary of a country church in Iowa.
And at last, I saw his heart again, when his 24-year-old daughter held the microphone at the front of our church. She didn’t know if she could get through her remarks, but she said she’d regret it for the rest of her life if she didn’t try.
Yes, she is her father’s daughter.
She found the courage within herself to find her voice for those of us gathered before her. She told us what she needed to say, and in that moment, we all heard what her father already knew: How fiercely she loved him. She had already said what needed to be said to her dad, but now it was our turn to hear it. And there was no holding back.
It was brave, and it was right.
And it was beautiful.
Hey Tell His Story crew! It is a joy to gather here every week with you. The linkup goes live each Tuesday at 4 p.m. (CT). If you would use the badge on your blog, found here, that would be great! And if you would visit at least one other blogger in the link-up and encourage them with a comment, that would be beautiful! Be sure to check the sidebar later. I’ll be featuring one of you over there!
Our featured writer this week is Mary Geisen. If you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen that I’m happily cheering on Holley Gerth’s new book, Fiercehearted. Mary shares one of the lessons she learned while reading Fiercehearted… and I have to say, I’ll never look at roly polys the same way again, either. Find Mary here.
To be considered as our featured writer, be sure to use our badge or a link to my blog from your post. xo Jennifer
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Thank you sweet friend for allowing me to share my words about roly polys here at your link up and for others to read. I loved Holley’s book.
Your words about Charlie are ones that deep down many of us know, but we forget to say out loud what needs to be said. I had a beautiful year with my dad before he passed away and even though every conversation was not perfect we had the gift of time to leave each other with memories and words that I can hold onto until it’s my time.
Always a joy to share your words, Mary. You’re a treasure. Thanks for being a continued part of our community. … So glad you had the time with your dad, to say what needed saying.
I have a tendency to measure words and to skirt around emotions in order to keep things light — and trusting others to interpret my actions and discover that I love them. Such a silly way to operate for someone who loves words as much as I do. Thanks for sharing Charlie’s good life and his good example.
I appreciate your candor, friend. I’ve done the same thing, at times.
Oh, Jennifer, what a sweet story, esp. of his daughter. And a good reminder to say what needs to be said and not wait. We don’t know how much time any of us have.
Blessings to you!
Thank you, Gayl.
Our pastor reads from the Bible of the one who has passed away. I’m certain that’s not unique to him; but, it makes his message so meaningful a tribute, to God and to the ones left to remember.
Wow. What a great idea to read from the Bible of the person who passed away!
Awww, Jennifer. First, I’m sorry for the loss your church has faced as Charlie went to his real home. Thank you for sharing with us the importance of saying what needs to be said. I am not always great at saying the right thing, but my boys are teaching me the importance of speaking life with the words I use. And declaring my dreams? I haven’t been brave in doing this. But, maybe I speaking the dreams of my heart will give others the courage to do the same.
Thank you, Jeanne.
Oh Jennifer I am so sorry for your church family’s loss. I am grateful you have shared such with us though. This is sad yet beautiful. And challenging YES. I love the quote. It is true and one that reminds me of what Jill McCormick said today, about not being timid in our work. I think these two go well together and I love how God works like this. I need this, and still struggle with being who I seem be online verses in person. I need to remember it’s okay to be me no matter I am, and to say what God has put on my heart to say no matter how incapable in my own skin I “feel.” He is able through us! I love ya and hope you have a blessed week. Will be praying for everyone.
You go right on being you, Meghan. You are a treasure.
These words hit so close to home this week. In the last several weeks, several young pastors have died unexpectedly. It’s so much. Lives taken way too soon leaving behind a spouse and young children. My heart hurts.
Oh Tara! How awful to hear this! I can’t even imagine the pain in your community. You have my prayers tonight.
I love you so. Continued prayers. That is all.
I love you, too. Thanks for being you.
Amen. I need to let go of grudges today. Remember that God loves all all equally, today. See people through HIS eyes, today. Thank you for the reminder.
I needed the reminder, too, my friend. Much love.
So sorry Jennifer. You are so right about death making us think about the brevity of life. Let us be brave people who are generous with our words to others.
You are very generous with your good, good words, Theresa — all of them point to the heart of Christ.
What a beautiful tribute to Charlie –
What a beautiful reminder. Thank you for sharing through your tender places. God honors every word.
Such a good reminder to not just appreciate people in my heart, but to tell them.
Beautiful…true…never leave the positive things, the love, unsaid.
I so resonate with this post, your words, and the theme. I think I started learning that earlier in my life when my husband was deployed to Vietnam and we were keenly aware of wanting our words to each other to matter, not just as he was leaving but also in each daily letter we would each write. Something inside me has always wanted to be certain I did not miss any moment to say what needed to be said.
How true this is! Thanks for hosting!
Your words hit home. We lost two people that mean the world to us this year. Thankfully, God had prompted me and I listened to him and spent some time with each of them shortly before they passed away. Both were sudden unexpected deaths. Wish I had more time with each for more words to be spoken but so thankful for the time I had.
Charlie sounds like a wonderful person. I think people should write each other notes and poems.