Don’t put off saying “I love you.”

The first time I met Aunt Lisa, Esteban and I had rented a Plymouth Reliant in Queens and had driven it through rain and sleet almost 300 miles north to Lake Placid. I remember almost every mile thanks to the bald tires and absent windshield wipers (which presumably had been stolen back in Queens).

Lisa wasn’t there to receive us when we arrived, but I liked her instantly by proxy: The photos of her and her husband, beaming in their kayaks and on the slopes, spoke of a life well lived.

Over the next 30 years I grew to admire her. Lisa was a wonderful listener and was always quick to laugh, even when the joke was of dubious quality. Her soft-spoken ways belied her sharp intellect.

From her social graces to her simple life, her devotion to her family and her love of the outdoors, Lisa was my role model in so many ways.

It’s a pity I never told her that. Lisa died of cancer last Saturday, and now I’ll never get the chance.

Don’t put off saying “I love you.”


  1. Wow. No kidding. I’ve made that mistake myself. You will never regret saying “I love you,” or “I care about you,” or even “I hope you’re doing ok.” But you WILL regret NOT saying those things.

  2. Thank you for your story, H.
    We all need to be reminded of the transience of life.
    I think Aunt Lisa knew about your affection ❤ ❤ ❤
    All the best,

  3. Whilst I don’t have a problem saying “I love you” it was not something I said a lot. Then several years ago my oldest boy started dating a girl whose family would always finish their conversations with “love you, bye”. My son picked up on that and started doing it himself. and over time I started doing it too. Now I say it much more than I used to. Took a little bit of getting used to, I’ll admit – it felt a little cheesy at first, saying it so often (well, not in *every* conversation, but you get my drift).
    I’m sure that you are talking about a mucher deeper and more specific confession of your regard for her, and I’m sorry that you didn’t have a chance to tell her that yourself. But, though I only know you through this blog, something tells me you let her know it in other ways. My sincere best wishes to you

    • I love your story about your son and his girlfriend, and how her family’s habit of saying “love you” influenced your own. That’s wonderful, Terry! Thank you for your kind an comforting words, too. I always appreciate your thoughtful comments, and with this one especially you’ve really brightened my day.

  4. Your regret is being magically transcended into something richer by each person who reads about that trip up to Lake Placid without windshield wipers and what you’ve carried inside you since……no doubt at least half of them have stopped for a moment to think of someone they love or admire. Felt their own pangs of regret, worry or fondness about their Aunt Lisas. I enjoyed this remembrance. To H’s Aunt Lisa in Lake Placid……

  5. Reblogged this on 7theredailypost and commented:
    With tears and broken heart, I missed to say that to my auntie Fidèle. Almost 20years after she passed I still can’t understand why it was so hard to tell her that “you were another good mum to me” and I’m so sorry I was acting silly. I really love you and I miss you too much

    • I am so sorry about your auntie Fidèle. But as others have reminded me, please don’t be too hard on yourself for not having said the words. In this life, it’s our actions that speak loudest. In this big universe of ours, I hope there is a possibility that your words of love will somehow reach your dear auntie. My very best to you …

  6. Thank you for this post. And as in the previous comment, this post has undoubtedly touched whoever reads this–and Aunt Lisa sounds like she would enjoy that very much. You have a lot of wonderful memories that keep her spirit alive in your heart. She knows you loved her. 🙂

  7. Such a loss of a wonderful person. What a beautiful tribute you illustrated. We never know when our last breath will be so we practice your sentiments and always express our love one to another.

    • ALWAYS. We must always express our love — because our thoughts become our life. Thank you so much for stopping by!

    • Sadly, I’ve not been back since we visited Lisa some 30 years ago. But you’re right: It is truly a beautiful part of the country. Do you still live there? I’ve been wondering whether it’s as wild and wooded as I remember, or whether development has taken hold.

      • We live in Rochester, NY. I grew up in Tupper Lake which is about 30 minutes away from Lake Placid. It is still so pristine and a great place to enjoy nature. Maybe you’ll make up there again some time. It was nice though you had the opportunity to see and experience its beauty.

  8. I’ll join you here. I admire *you* for your voice and your love in the world. I know I speak for others, who won’t speak up out of shyness, reserve, uncertainty or perhaps fear. I’m sorry you have regrets. But knowing the person you are, I have no doubt your Aunt Lisa knew what she meant to you. I’m sorry for your loss. Sending love and light your way.

  9. Thank you for sharing your lovely tribute to your aunt and your openness about your regret. Tears jumped to my eyes, as I was reminded of having those same feelings when losing a cousin whom I loved and admired but had never said so. You are correct: we cannot be shy about saying, “I love you.”

    • Isn’t it strange how awkward it can be sometimes to express our *appreciation*? Perhaps that’s one of life’s most important lessons: Don’t leave the good things unsaid. My condolences on your cousin, Living Life …

  10. Gosh, you have a gift of bringing kindness towards you. Reading the comments here is like reading warm sprinkles of love.

    I’m so sorry to hear about your Aunt Lisa but, my goodness, the day I die I’d feel blessed to imagine my niece reminding the world how important love is. I think you have something near 50,000 followers on your blog. Each of them will read your message in their inbox, whether they read the whole post or not. You’ve placed the thought in 48,562 heads. You’ve reminded them of something all humans know, and most humans forget.

    Maybe they’ll pick up the phone to call a distant relative, maybe they’ll hug their wife closer, maybe they’ll smile a little more brightly at the check out person in the supermarket. Thanks to your nudge.

    If I were your Aunt Lisa, all those years ago, I’d have guessed that you loved me after you chose to drive, through 300 miles of rain and sleet, to see me. That’s a great big choice, made of 300 miles of solid, active love, in the face of grim weather. You could have turned back at any easy point, gone back home to the warm safety of your house. Postponed things. But you chose love, and kept driving towards Aunt Lisa.

    Words are the icing on the cake of love. We understand love through action and I can’t imagine that your aunt will have doubted for a moment that you loved her. She will have known that you enjoyed her sense of humour, through your smile of shared fun, in person or in your voice on the phone. She will have known that you shared her appreciation for the outdoors. Just as you must know how she felt about you. From hugs and smiles and conversation and shared meals, prepared with love.

    Words are precious things, but they’re not the only things. Now you’re using words to spread a message of love to tens of thousands of people. Your Aunt Lisa would be proud.

    All best wishes

    • You are a beautiful person and a wonderful writer, Elaine. Thank you for once again brightening my day with your insights and observations. Especially that “words are the icing on the cake of love.” It’s true, isn’t it — saying the words is important, but it’s through our actions that we truly show love. As for all the followers … well, don’t be too impressed. Most happened by once and saw a photo or funny phrase they liked, I expect. But blog friends like YOU? Well, you truly are one in a million. Thank you for always adding something interesting and thought-provoking to the conversation. I treasure our blog friendship and very much appreciate your thoughtfulness.

      • You’re sweet to say that. The title of your blog post reaches all your followers though, doesn’t it? They’ll read the title to see if they want to read on. The idea will enter their thoughts. We’ve all become so adept at making instant decisions of a ‘do I care enough to read on?’ or ‘is there a kitten/Machu Pichu photo to be found here?’ (which reminds me – a secondary school here in Brighton has acquired 5 pygmy goats, to provide “goaty love to staff and students alike” – they tweet with very positive humour It’s a lovely idea.

        Meanwhile, your words and your message will have been read, and will have reminded many people how important it is to communicate love. You’ve thrown a pebble of kindness into the human pond and the ripples will spread.

        • PYGMY GOATS! What an adorable idea — especially when they’re dressed as Batman. “The Kittens of Machu Picchu” also has the makings of a blockbuster blog post-turned-novel-turned-film, though. I shall have to get working on that right away.

          All cheeky humor aside, thank you once again for gracing me with your kind words. I am truly touched, Elaine.

          • It’s such a good idea, isn’t it? The school has about 1,300 children, with all the niggles that rubbing up against 1,299 other teenagers in a small space can bring.

            All schools should have a handful of pygmy goats to bring peace, love and skippity fun. I’m sure the goats get a ton of attention too. They’re way more stroke-able than a classroom collection of stick insects. Harder to mislay too.

          • “They’re way more stroke-able than a classroom collection of stick insects. Harder to mislay too.” HA HA HAAAA! What a marvelous wit you have, Elaine!

  11. I wish saying I’m sorry was ever enough. If you could see my face and eyes, they say more right now. So much a part of our human experience, to know this regret, probably multiple times in our lives; questioning why we didn’t express our gratitude and love to another. Growing in this realization and doing it actively in life is so rewarding and again, such an integral part of how I think we grow as human beings in a lifetime. From how you describe your aunt and knowing her some 30 years, I’m sure she saw and knew the love in you. I think it’s never too late. It may not look like how we would’ve wanted, but send the love anyway. It defies time, distance, fears, and all logic. Send it out to her anyway, H. And take care of yourself.

    • What kind and beautiful words, Lara. I would also like to think that in this big universe of ours there’s a way for love to ripple through space and time and reach those we’ve lost. I will take your advice and send Lisa my love. Thank you for bringing this moment of comfort and stillness — your own good vibes have traveled clear across a continent today! ❤

      • I have some tears on that one – beautiful what you said, and received with gratitude here. I really do believe in this; that love defies space and time, and all our mental constructs. To say it’s hard feels like an understatement, but to know love to let it keep growing, and to feel that it really is larger than we’ve any idea – I’m in.

  12. So so sorry to hear of your loss. She knew you loved her though, especially now. Of this, we can be sure. 🙂

  13. sometimes it’s hard to say those words. because you are not sure of what would be the reply or the reaction. but when you did. it’s like, something was just put out from your chest, your worries will be lessen and your feeling will get lighter.

    • You are so right that speaking our feelings can sometimes be difficult if we don’t know how they’ll be received. Thank you for stopping by, and for taking the time to comment!

  14. Lamento su perdida. Es cierto. Hace mucho q no le digo te amo te quiero mucho a mis abuelos,hermanos y nunca se sabe cuando puede haber una pérdida. Gracias por compartir.

    • Muchísimas gracias por sus lindas palabras. Espero que lo/la inspire a decirle a sus seres queridos lo mucho que los ama. Como usted dice tan bien, “nunca se sabe cuando puede haber una pérdida.” La vida es corta; hay que aprovechar y llenarla de amor.

    • You are so right, Ellie. Life is uncertain, so we mustn’t leave the good things unsaid. Thank you so much for stopping by!

      • Your welcome. Will stop by again. Great blog to read.wonderful work. I’m new at this. Finally got the courage to put my love for writing out there. Feel free to check out my blog too.

        • Thank you so much for your kind words, Ellie! I’m really glad and honored you like my writing. And good for you for starting a blog of your own, too! Keep at it. It’s hard sometimes to find the time — or to even think of something to say — but it’s so worth it to look back a few years later at the moments in the life you’ve documented, and the friendships you’ve made along the way.

          And as long as we’re on the topic of blog-friends and regular writing, here’s a post you may enjoy from my friend Jim:

          Cheers to you!

          • Thank you for your kind words Heide. I’m enjoying it so much. Thanks for leading me to Jim’s post it was very helpful. I read some of his posts and I really liked them. If you have more suggestions feel free to tell me. And if you think someone might like my writing feel free to share as well. Looking forward to some more of your writing.

  15. We should indeed never put off saying “I love you”. Sometimes it takes a hard learned lesson to realize it. Still, I think you aunt knew how you felt, and her memory with always live on.

    • Thank you for your kind comment, Otto. I’m sorry about the delay in responding — I’m a bit banged up after an accident — but I want you to know I’ve very much appreciated your buoying words over the past few days.

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