TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - Over the past couple of weeks, several of my Airmen have lost a parent or guardian. Regardless of whether the loss of a loved one is expected or unexpected; the pain, sorrow and heartache you experience is real.
Many of you have already experienced the loss of a loved one in your life and it is never easy. In 2013, out of the blue, my mother, 62, was diagnosed with a rare lung cancer and was given a short time to live. She was not a smoker nor had she really been sick throughout her life other than the occasional cold or flu.
As you can imagine, I was devastated when I heard the news. My first reaction was denial. There must be some mistake. Surely, it is a misdiagnosis.
Then, I thought, there must be treatment options. Once reality set in and after realizing there were no viable treatment options, I just wanted to be there for her and spend as much quality time as I could with her.
Fortunately, I was stationed only four hours away, had plenty of leave time built up over the years and an accommodating boss. I was able to spend a week here and there over a six-month period taking care of my mom.
I prayed with her, reminisced over past experiences, and even made some new memories during this difficult time knowing they would be the last that we would share together.
More importantly, I had the opportunity to tell my mother what I had been putting off throughout my life: How much she truly meant to me and how grateful I was for her love, kindness, patience and guidance. Sure, most of us tell our parents or guardians “thanks” as we go about our busy lives, but do you or have you taken the time to sincerely and deeply express how much you appreciate them and what they mean to you?
Although I would recommend having these conversations with your loved one in person, I know this may not be possible in all circumstances due to time, distance or cost. However, there should be no excuses as you can write a letter, pick up the phone, send an email or text.
I encourage you not to wait or put off till tomorrow what you want to share with your loved ones today, as you never know how many opportunities you may have left. What do you want to tell your parent, guardian or loved one if you knew they only had a short time to live? Don’t wait, tell them how much they mean to you.