A little over a year ago, my dad had a massive heart attack.
We didn’t expect it (which sounds weird to say, because who ever expects someone they love to have a heart attack) but it’s true. He’d never had any heart trouble before, he was only fifty-five years old, and you could find him at the gym at least a few times each week.
Then, out of nowhere, his just heart stopped beating.
In the weeks before I got the call we hadn’t been talking much. We were close, and had been close for most of my adult life, but I had recently gotten married and moved across the country, and things were hard, and weird with the transition.
Every time I would think to call I would say to myself, “I’ll call tomorrow…”
So when my sister called to explain what had happened, I felt all of the reasons I’d given myself to hold back from calling him crash against me like a river of grief and regret. “I should have called,” I kept saying to myself, in a blur of tears. “God, don’t let him die. Please, don’t let him die.” I prayed and I sobbed.
I was brought back to this moment the other day after getting in an argument with a friend.
It wasn’t a yelling-screaming fight, but we were both frustrated with each other and by the time we hung up the phone, things were weird, like they’d been my with my dad. We were still friends, but we were confused; we weren’t sure who should say what, or when. I laid awake in bed that night, going over the fight in my mind. I felt myself thinking, “I’ll call tomorrow…”
But instead, I sat up in bed and immediately sent them a text: “I love you and care for you, even when we disagree. We’re okay.”
It was simple. So simple. But at the same time, it changed everything for me.
My grandma turned 90 years old recently, and the whole family traveled to Chicago to celebrate. After the celebration we sat around asking her questions, gleaning from her wisdom about life and marriage and career and family.
My cousin asked, “Grandma, what’s the best thing you ever did for your marriage?”
She thought about it for a minute and then said, “Each night, before we fell asleep, we would turn to each other and say, ‘I’m sorry if I hurt you today. I love you.’” I smiled at her words and then, that night, when I climbed into bed, my husband looked me in the eye and said, “I’m sorry if I hurt you today. I love you.”
It was simple. So simple. But at the same time, it changed everything.
I wonder if this is why Paul urges us in Scripture not to let the sun go down on our anger — not because it makes God happy (although it probably does), but because he knows it will make us happy. Perhaps he knows our deepest desires, as well as our deepest regrets, come from the same place: Our connection to others.
By a beautiful miracle, my dad survived his heart attack.
But I live differently now, knowing my chance to say “I love you, Dad,” in person, was almost taken away from me. Before I go to bed at night I try to say — to my husband, and whoever else needs to hear it — I’m sorry if I hurt you today. I love you.
It’s simple. So simple. But at the same time, it changes everything.