I’m active in various groups on Zoom, and recently there’s been much discussion about rituals and how they can mark milestones in our lives or punctuate an event.
My mother passed away in 1995. During her last week in hospice home care at her assisted living facility, I knew her time was short. She had had a series of mini-strokes, and her speech and understanding were affected.
I knew her three closest girlfriends, who could not visit because they too were homebound. So I decided they all needed to say goodbyes. I took the telephone, dialed their numbers, and told them about my mother’s condition. Then I put the telephone to my mother’s ear so they could all say goodbye. I held it there for a reasonable time while my mother smiled and sometimes tried to make a sound. I would then thank her friend and say goodbye, and they in turned thanked me.
The most difficult call was with my mother’s friend Isabell. They were closer than some sisters. In fact, some friends teased them as if they were a couple, which both found hysterical. When I put the phone to my mother’s ear, there were tears in her eyes while she listened to Isabell. Mother passed about a week later. When I called Isabell to let her know, her cousin answered, and we realized Isabell had passed about three days after my mother.
So now that we are in this COVID-19 pandemic, what does all this have to do with anything? Well, we all know families who have not been able to say goodbye or be there with their family members. So many people never got to tell their families and friends that they loved them one last time. Others wish they hadn’t argued with their loved one the last time they spoke.
I have decided that I am not going to let that happen to the very close friends I have left. So, I am creating a new ritual for myself in which I will call those four friends and tell them how much they mean to me. If they should pass or become ill, it’s not like I could travel to see them or they could come to see me. And we all know that COVID can happen fast.
I am calling this ritual: “If you didn’t know how much you mean to me.” Here’s how it works:
- First, I mention the number of years we’ve been friends.
- Then, I talk about some historic event we’ve both seen in those years, such as the first Gay Pride celebration, the legalization of gay marriage, the two Kennedy assassinations, or Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination.
- Next, I talk about some of the good and bad times we’ve shared together: our cross-country trip by air, great dinner parties, the hotel with the heart-shaped pool, and dressing for dinner.
- Finally, I offer my personal support, encourage my friend to pursue a specific goal, or just let them know that they’ve always been there for me.
- I end the call by saying, “I do not want you to respond to this, just know it.” Then I change the subject or say we will talk another time.
Life is short. Let the people you love know that, right now!
By Wes Morrison