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I recently had a visit from a young lady who attends my local church congregation, and we talked for a while. During our conversation, she shared that she did not remember her father ever telling her he loved her. I immediately had a flashback to when I was growing up. I could relate, because my family did not hug each other or express love.
My Dad died my senior year in college. It was sudden, but not unexpected as he had his first heart attack when I was in high school. My last memory of my Dad was him taking me to the bus stop and giving me the usual “be good, do well in college, and do not call home asking for money” sermon. So I just wanted to leave and get on the bus. When I got the call later that year he had passed away, I tried to remember if I told him I loved him—but I could not remember if I had.
I felt so bad that it was now too late! I had nightmares for about a year after he passed away. I would wake up crying, wishing I had expressed my love when I still could. At his funeral, my brother and I found out from a cousin that Dad’s parents had both died when he was a small child and he was passed from one relative to another until he was old enough to be on his own. He did not have parents to set examples—that love needs to be expressed in words and deeds.
I decided then that I could change my relationship with my remaining parent. I did not want to relive the “regrets and guilt” as when my Dad had died. After I returned to Texas, I began calling my Mom more often, and I made it a point to tell her I loved her before I hung up each time. When I married, my Mom walked me down the aisle. Gradually our relationship changed, and sometimes my Mom said “I love you” first. My Mom died years ago, the day before my son turned 10 years old. The loss of a loved one is never easy. But I was comforted that my Mom knew she was greatly loved and had been told often. I look forward to seeing both my parents in the Resurrection (Luke 20:35–37; Revelation 20:12–13).
I told this story to my young friend that day. It is possible to change things with loved ones who never learned to express love. I was living proof—but my own example was supported by an even greater spiritual principle.
I sought to illustrate this principle by connecting a scripture in the Bible to this story. The one that stood out was Matthew 6:8: “For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.” But what is important is He wants to hear from us. As my son grew into adulthood, the communication between us diminished. Then I realized: I enjoyed him wanting to seek my advice, and sometimes just to tell me how his day went. I realized God is like our “Daddy,” and He wants to hear from us, through the good and bad times, to encourage and to lift us up. He wants us to talk to Him like family members do! That realization made a difference in my prayers: they became more meaningful and thoughtful.
My young friend has told me she has followed my advice. In expressing her love, her father has begun declaring his love in words. Although he does not initiate the conversation, the words have begun. I keep encouraging her to continue, because even though there might not be a change on his end, she is more at peace. She is making the effort. Believe me when I say it is very hard to deal with the knowledge of “it’s too late, I wish I had done things differently.” That is hard weight to carry. Be encouraged that we can make positive changes in our relationships with family, friends, and with our heavenly Father. It is never too late!