I Love You
Long before I learned about the rule of threes in comedy, I grew up hearing that bad things happen in threes. I’ve heard that all my life and to be honest, more often than not, that’s exactly the way it happens.
In fact, I’ve seen people get really edgy when two things have happened. It’s like they can’t let their guard down until they know what the third thing is. It feels like a superstitious paranoia.
Unfortunately, this rule of threes does seem to be true, especially when talking about death.
A few weeks ago, one of Paul’s dear friends lost his son to a sudden and unexpected heart attack. He was 49 years old.
A couple of weeks ago, the friend of a friend kissed his family goodbye as he went to work as a meteorologist. He perished in that helicopter crash in Charlotte. He was in his early 40s.
On Tuesday, I saw my next-door neighbor walking his dogs and on Wednesday morning he was gone in the terrible collision at Providence and Fairview Road. He was in his late 50s/ early 60s.
None of these people were family; there was enough distance to protect my heart from deep sorrow and yet enough proximity to make me ponder the ordinary and the supernatural and also the uncertainty of what each day brings.
Some children are sheltered from death. They are never included in grief. In fact, they are shielded from even seeing it. They never attend a funeral for fear it will disturb them, and I see the thought and care behind that. My husband was raised this way. The problem arose when the first funeral he ever had to attend was at age 27, and it was his own father’s. That’s not exactly wading slowly into the pool.
Quite the opposite, I was taken to funerals even as a young child. I was told death is a part of life. I was in line with the adults at the visitation as we filed past the open casket.
My dad used to love to tell me that the minute you’re born, you start dying. He always said it like it was some clever joke. You’ve got to love that kind of humor. Sure puts knock knock jokes in perspective.
I’m glad I was raised, not to necessarily be comfortable with death, but also not to be shocked or terrified by it. The problem is it simply became part of a cosmic checklist: you’re born, get married, have kids, grow old, and die.
Here I am at my age, finally thinking of the absurdity that one day you’re here, and the next day you’re not. There is not always a neat and tidy goodbye.
Sometimes we walk the dogs one morning, and we never do it again. Sometimes we kiss loved ones as we rush out the door, and we simply don’t return.
The other thing I was raised to do was say “I love you'' at the end of each phone call and each time we took leave of each other. There have been a few times in my life when I have been so angry, I’ve said it through gritted teeth, but most times to be honest, it’s muscle memory. The words simply tumble out as I hang up or leave.
The fact that it's a habit doesn’t make it any less true. Like most people, I have my fair share of bad habits, but this is one I'm happy about. If we have to have a trait, something that we do automatically, wouldn’t it be great to be something like saying “I love you?”
And by the way, I do, you know… love you!