Love means nothing in tennis, but it’s everything in life. ~Author unknown
My Mom used to end our phone conversations with two words: “Love you.” She would always say the same to my two sons, regardless of how rambunctious or loud they were, she’d just pull them into a hug and tell them she loved them.
My Mom’s loving sentiments had a positive impact on my boys. Now, when they head out the door, or before they go to bed, tell me “Bye Mom! Love you” or “Goodnight Mom, love you!”; I, in turn, tell them the same. The words we use have a profound impact on our relationships; this simple exchange between my boys and I help us stay connected.
About a year after my Mom died, I wondered why I could easily say “Love you” to my kids, to my husband, to my sister-in-law, my aunt, and even to my closest girlfriends, but I had a hard time letting those two words pass through my lips to my father’s failing ears; for some strange reason, my Dad and I never said “Love you” to each other before hanging up the phone or when leaving his house after a visit. I assumed it was because I couldn’t remember him ever saying it to me – he’s never been overly demonstrative – and perhaps it felt out of character or awkward for him.
We had come upon the first anniversary of her death and I had been at my Dad’s home. I could see the sadness in his blue eyes as we talked about how much we missed her. As I opened the door to my car, I gave him the usual hug and said, “Love you” to him to which he replied, “Love you too.” Over the past two years, this exchange has become a regular occurrence. I’d like to think these words of affection are having a positive impact on our respective lives and in our relationship. I notice he is softening, he’s more patient, content, and overall, seems happy.
Last Monday, when I received news that my friend had suffered a stroke and was in ICU, I went to visit. My friend is smart, brave, and strong; I had faith that she would get better. The first day, before I left, I leaned over, held her hand, looked her in the eyes, and told her I loved her. Tears welled up in both our eyes.
I continued to tell her “I love you” at the end of each visit I made over the three days I saw her in ICU and the three days I saw here in the step-down ICU unit. Her family was also telling her they loved and cared about her.
Over the course of the week, she made progress each day: she could move her right leg, then she could move her right hand and arm. She could eat soft foods, so the feeding tube was removed. She stood up on Friday, and again on Saturday. She had good comprehension and she was continuing to improve. By Sunday, a week after the stroke, the doctor released her to an acute care facility where she could receive intensive therapy, including treatment for regaining her speech.
During her stay at the hospital, family and friends told her “I love you” countless times and although she could not speak, her eyes spoke for her, returning the sentiment as well as hope, faith, and gratitude.
Sometimes it is uncomfortable or awkward saying those simple words, but regardless of the discomfort, I believe it has a profound impact on healing the heart, the mind, and the body. My Dad and my friend are my proof. This isn’t tennis, this is life.