Saying It, Not Just Thinking It…

To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die (drawing by Diane Mottl)When I was sixteen, a good friend of mine died while on an overseas school trip (peanut allergy). I have thought of her often over the years.

In my early twenties, when I was struggling and did not know if I believed in a God, I reached out to her instead. I imagined her looking down, hearing my words and giving me comfort. When the turmoil of my twenties settled, there were many other times that I thought of her and wondered what she would have been like at this age and that.

When I dig through my box of memorabilia and come across pages ripped from my high school notebook, I think of her. I see the squiggles of her writing in the margins and am reminded of us writing notes back and forth during social studies class.

Yes, I have thought of her often in the thirty-two years since her death.

Yet in all that time, I have never told her parents how much she has been in my thoughts. In the days immediately after her death, I went to her house, saw her parents and stumbled over my words of grief. I did it again at the funeral. But after that, nothing.

At my ten year high school reunion (back in 1994) I thought of putting my thoughts into words and sharing them with her parents. But I did not. And soon another ten years went by. Then another.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of my high school reunion. As planning messages went back and forth, I saw three names scratched out on the graduation class lists: two deaths I knew of (they happened shortly after graduation), but the third was recent. And then there was Cara. Gone in grade eleven, so not on the list: such a glaring absence. Was that the final push I needed?

I flipped through my albums and found a picture of Cara (taken shortly before her death). I drew until the words I wanted to say to her parents started to come. I wrote so they would know that their daughter — my friend — has been in my heart all these years. And when I sealed the hand drawn card and words in an envelope, I could almost feel Cara looking down on me, smiling and saying, “-bout time!”

So why did it take me so long? Why is it so easy to overlook saying what is really important to those around us? So many words spill out of our mouths each day, but how many of them are words of recognition, kindness, support, encouragement, or appreciation?

“Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.” — Mother Teresa

Our hearts can be filled with warm thoughts about someone — admiration, respect, love, pride — yet how often do we share those thoughts aloud? Do we assume the other person already knows? Think they should not need to hear them? Do we stop ourselves from saying them, worrying that we might embarrass ourselves by saying it “wrong”? Or do we feel too vulnerable saying them aloud when we are not sure how the other will respond?

“You bring out the best in yourself by looking for the best in others.” — Gene Bedley

But isn’t there so much more to be gained by sharing those warm thoughts, rather than holding them in? Doesn’t it feel good to say them? Write them? Know that you put something positive out into the world with no strings attached? And whether you are the giver or the receiver, don’t those kind words warm your insides just a bit?

“Appreciation can make a day, even change a life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary.” — Margaret Cousins

Could it be as easy as making the decision to do more of it? Give the heartfelt compliment. Praise another. Point out a positive. Tell someone you appreciate them. Let someone know they matter to you. Find that long-ago special someone and tell them that they made a positive difference in your life. Or reach out to someone who is carrying a shadow of grief for a lost loved one and let them know that you, too, remember.

Rather than just thinking it, let’s start saying it.

“The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.” — Oscar Wilde

“Sincere compliments cost nothing and can accomplish much. In any relationship, they are the applause that refreshes.” — Steve Goodier

“One kind word can warm three winter months.” — Japanese Proverb

“Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end…”  — Scott Adams

“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.” — John Wesley

“I will be generous with my love today. I will sprinkle compliments and uplifting words everywhere I go. I will do this knowing that my words are like seeds and when they fall on fertile soil, a reflection of those seeds will grow into something greater.” — Steve Maraboli

“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” — Edith Wharton

12 Responses to “Saying It, Not Just Thinking It…”

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  1. says:

    When I was younger, I used this excuse of not saying “I love you” to my family members: of course I love them, I am their son/brother. I don’t need to say it because they know it.

    Even if this is true, saying the words still means a lot. Glad to to hear you found your voice and put the words inside you in paper.

    • I wonder if it is a part of getting older, Don, that gives us the wisdom to speak our hearts more? For I, too, have found that the older I get, the more I am choosing to speak the words (or write them) and not get caught up in the “but they already know”. Thanks for your comment, Don.

  2. says:

    Oh my, how heart-warming… I’ve tears in my eyes! So beautifully written (as always) and I’m so glad you reached a point where you could release what has been in your heart all of these years.

    There really is a huge gap between even the smallest act of kindness and an intention — I love that quote by Oscar Wilde. Your post has inspired me to consider intentions that I’ve been holding onto too tightly. Perhaps, like you, the time has come for me to let them loose.

    • The Oscar Wilde quote struck me too. It is so easy to have good intentions, but without acting on them, what good do they really do? Sharing what has been in my heart all the years, gave me such a sense of lightness. I definitely plan to do more of it. Thanks for your comment, Sheila.

  3. says:

    Beautiful post and reminder that words can build up. This line really made me pause in awe of the power of creativity to work within us: “I drew until the words I wanted to say to her parents started to come.” Glad they came to you!

    • Allowing ourselves to tap into that creative pool within ourselves (and I think we all have it), is very powerful indeed. Thank for stopping by and leaving a comment, Charli. It is appreciated.

  4. Marc Tellier says:

    I think about her often …. Amazing how time goes by.

  5. Dan L. says:

    Great post, Diane. Touched my heart, and you captured the essence of Cara so well. Thank you.

  6. says:

    Reunions always remind us of the things we should have said. The people we should have been kinder to. Our younger selves meeting our older selves. I’m sure Cara’s parents understood you were just a kid yourself. All you have to do is say “I remember.” Great post – as usual, got me thinking. Jan

    • Thanks, Jan. Yes, reunions do make one think/reflect, don’t they? Good thing the “Statute of Limitations” never runs out on saying something from the heart.