Call Them While You Can (Grief and The Stuff We Need to Say Now)


Yesterday my daughter did something really funny during dinner—like spit take funny. (This is rather commonplace in our home these days).

Not long after finishing the dishes I grabbed for the phone to tell my dad about it. This is problematic for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that he died two and a half years ago. Suddenly as I started to dial, my brain kind of snapped to its senses and I put the phone down, feeling like I’d just been kicked in the gut.

Grief is a strange animal in this way, as anyone who has lost someone they love can testify. Whether it was ten days or ten years ago, you never quite fully adjust enough that you always remember that they’re dead. Yes, you understand on a cerebral level that they’re gone. Intellectually you know the finality of what’s happened, but somehow your heart’s muscle memory is stronger than all of that. It wants what gives it joy and so many times what gave it joy were those seemingly meaningless phone conversations that now turn out to be so very meaningful.

It isn’t an exaggeration to say that last night I would have traded my car, my house, and my bank account for another two-minute, “You’ll never guess what happened today!” phone call with my father.

That’s how valuable these things become.
This is their profound preciousness.
This is how fleeting the days are.

I’m not telling you so that you’ll feel sorry for me.
I’m not telling this to depress you.
I’m telling you this to move you.

Because right now you have phone calls that you should make.
Right now you have forgiveness you’ve been withholding from someone who needs it.
Right now you’re waiting for the other person to make the move toward you.
Right now you’re too busy or distracted or stubborn to make the call.
Right now you have something kind or trivial or funny or important to share with someone and you’re figuring you’ll do it later.

Later is not always going to be a luxury you have, as impossible as that is to believe right now. 

And friend, when you don’t have later, the thing you’ll want more than anything on the planet is to be able to grab the phone and hear their voice again in all its unspectacular ordinary; to sit and rest in the sweet embrace of their uneventful presence.

The time that you’ll most want to call them, is that moment that you’re reminded that you can’t.

I was fortunate that my father and I had a great relationship and talked often. I spoke to him a few hours before he passed away suddenly. I didn’t leave much unsaid with my father, but I still want to say much more. I still want to share good news and tell silly stories and be encouraged in my bad days. I still want to hear him explode with laughter on the other end of the line at my daughter’s spit-take inducing hilarity.

When you lose someone you love, no matter how much time you’ve had with them it will always be at least one minute less than you want. You will always feel just slightly cheated.

There are a million things today that can keep you from making that phone call: your schedule, your responsibilities, your pride, your being right.

I’m asking you not to let any of those things stop you. None of them are worth it.

Look at me here prattling on like this. I apologize. I’ve already taken up way too much of your time here.

You have far more seemingly ordinary, yet beautifully vital things to do.

There is Life waiting for you on the other end of the line in a voice that feels like it will always be there.

So stop reading this. 

Go pick up the phone, and while you still can—call them.


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