I was talking to somebody recently who had lost a loved one. In the course of our conversation, they were talking about their last conversation with the person who had died. It wasn’t necessarily a bad one but it wasn’t a magnificent one, either. She said “If I had known it was our last time talking, I would have done something more significant. I would have said ‘I love you’, or something like that.”
As we were talking I said, “Maybe the better thing to do is not to remember the last conversation with your loved one. Why don’t you remember the best conversation that you had with your loved one.”
Even as it came out of my mouth I thought, “That’s a really good idea.”
Often, as we remember those last conversations, we remember the question we didn’t answer, the frustration we felt, the ordinariness. We are saddened by their confusion from medication or the dementia. We lament the fact that we didn’t have a last conversation.
What we’d love to remember is the best conversation.
That moment when a parent told us that they loved us, a moment when we had a restoration of relationship, a moment with some clarity of mind where both of you were able to say, “This is what really matters to me. You really matter to me,”
Instead of worrying about that last conversation, start telling yourself and others about the best conversation that you had with that person. And by telling the story, you will make that be the thing you remember.
People who are grieving hear all kinds of annoying things from friends. This is a chapter from This Is Hard: What I Say When Loved Ones Die, which offers you 15 short sentences that will help you, not preach at you, and a journal to help you remember what matters.
And it’s a picture of my cousin, Jerry, who was always a great conversationalist.