What Are We Waiting For?



She had a smile that entered the room long before she did and a heart that knew no limits. My husband’s aunt, who, by the time I became a member of the family, lived hundreds of miles away, was always someone I knew of. Declining health prevented her from meeting our youngest son, her one visit with our older two a mere few hours.

I had only spent a short time in her physical company, but the idea of Irene has always been profound; and her passing last week has left a palpable void and reminded me of something I thought I already knew.

If I had to guess, I don’t think Irene understood the impact she had on me. And that wouldn’t be her fault. It would be mine. Because I never told her. I never picked up the phone and called her, never wrote her a letter. I sent photos of the children, always made sure I sent a Christmas card; but beyond that I was remiss.



I never told her how beautiful I thought she was, how incredibly brave, how the story of her life is the stuff of fiction. She lived many lifetimes in the one she was given, weathered losses that would have easily felled others. I never made an effort to be sure she knew her great-nephews despite geographical hurdles.

And just as resplendent flowers tend to arrive more prolifically after a person has died, the ardent words that would better have been spoken and written in life, suddenly appear with a vengeance: Obituaries overflow with positivity, letters of condolence seep with evocative praise. And the person who has left departed none the wiser.

So I’m left today wondering why: Why I did not stop the wheels of progress regularly to tell Irene what I thought–that she was kind and beautiful and brave? Why I let days turn to weeks and months, years and decades without a word, now having to join the legions who are compelled to relegate praise to sentences written in the past tense?

Why did I wait until today to tell the world about Irene? Why did I not do better when I clearly knew better?

Why do any of us?





7 thoughts on “What Are We Waiting For?

  1. Don’t beat up on yourself. I think all of us think all loved ones will live forever and we have time. We all impact each other in some way. She would have loved August as she must have Edgar and Oscar. Your family has made an impact on my life even with seeing each other a few times. Rejoice in what you have and had in your life. No regrets on “What If”.

  2. Great reminder to include some aunts and uncles into the lives of our children.

    You might enjoy seeing the cover of one of my novels, “Sons In My House Tonight.” It features three little boys looking for dad to come up the walk.
    Enjoy your work

  3. Time has a way of eating insatiably.
    And if we had to do it all over we’d make all the same mistakes.
    You made an effort. Have you any idea how she treasured being remembered and how thoughtful gestures improved the quality of her life?
    What you did vs what you didn’t do isn’t for you to judge…some time, some how, some way doing some thing that you MAKE the time to do you can quietly say, “This is for you Irene!”

  4. While reading I was thinking that you were being so hard on yourself and you are no different from most people, including myself. You already knew that. You are always one step ahead of me in thoughts and answers. You are not alone in procrastination and forgetfulness. I don’t know why we don’t follow through with communicating with those who mean so much to us and who touched our lives…good intentions somehow get lost. Really there are no excuses…plain and simple. Perhaps we just think that there is plenty of time, another day…and then it’s too late. As my father was failing, I expressed my feelings and love for him that should have been said so long ago. Those few minutes of my “confession” were too brief and too late to give me peace with the sadness I felt in our relationship…then time ran out. Sorry to hear of your loss.

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