Three little words. They hardly seem adequate to convey the wealth, the explosion of emotion that they represent. What things do they mean to you?
My Papa was my hero. He represented all things wonderful in the world. He was at my side when I couldn't breathe in the middle of the night, even if he had to get up and go to work the next day. I knew that I would be ok if Daddy was there with me.
When he passed, I sincerely did not believe that the sun could still rise in the sky. I felt as though the best part of me died with him.
I grieved with all that is within me.
That changed one day at work. I was speaking to one of my co-workers. She said, "I'm certain that you're very sad about your Father's death. I'm so sorry for your loss."
Then she continued, "I never knew my Father. He was never a part of my life. He left my Mother before I was born. Maybe you can find comfort in the fact that you had a great Dad for so many years."
That idea changed my perspective. I was blessed! I had a Father who loved me in the most active of ways. He sacrificed constantly for me, and yet never, ever complained. He always made me feel as though I was an intrinsic, joyous part of his life.
He took me on my first date. He explained how a young man should treat me. He opened the car door for me, took my arm to walk into a church party. We were there with other Father's and daughters. He pulled the chair out for me to sit in. He opened doors for me to walk through.
He never made me feel as though somehow I was less than, and that was why he opened my doors, pulled the chair out for me and took my arm. He made me feel cherished, important, and showed me how young men should treat me when I dated.
It bothered me a bit that he hardly EVER said, "I love you." Actually, I counted once and discovered that he had told me a total of four times. I would always say, "I love you," at the end of a phone call with Papa. His response would be, "Likewise," or "Ditto." Somehow those three words were too large for him to use.
On the other hand, he showed his love, his constant, and unconditional caring in many other ways. I came to understand that to him these words were not, and could not be, spoken casually such as the phrase, "Have a good day." Those three words meant the world and more to him.
He was a tender, gentle man. He was also a World War II Vet. He was a paratrooper, and combat soldier. He was very proud of the service that he gave to our country. On the other hand, I know that he was tortured by the idea of harming another human being. I marveled that a man who could not stop tears from forming in his gold brown eyes at the beauty of music, holding a new grandchild, or other poignant life experience, this tender man had once fought on a battlefield.
He helped to teach me that the world is filled with wondrous ways of saying the words, "I love you," that aren't words at all. We say "I Love You," by washing the dishes for a sick friend. We say "I love you," by listening to someone needing to vent the poisons of a broken soul. There are as many ways to say, "I love you," as there are people.
Today...the very moment that you read this...say I love you. Maybe not in those exact words. Write a letter to someone and express reasons that you treasure your friendship. Wash the dishes for your child, your Mother, your spouse. Make a meal and take it to a sick friend. Find some way to express what those three words mean to you. You may be surprised to find that you will receive more love than you give.