What do you say?

Sometimes in life we see someone, something and we have sympathy for a total stranger, we connect on a level, if it is just for a few minutes, that we rarely connect with. I’m a believer that often we miss these time. We are too busy avoiding strangers instead of making connections.

I’ve very guilty of this, always busy. Always checking my e-mails, seeing what’s next, seeing what I “need” to see on social media. The time we have to sit back, put our phones down, look around for me is an airplane trip.

I love traveling, I really do. This past year has put traveling to a sudden halt for most of us, but I’m looking forward to doing it again.

October 1, 2019 the Milwaukee Brewers played a 1 game Wild Card Playoff game against the Washington Nationals, in Washington DC. My friend, Jon, has a connection with the Nationals, that part really isn’t important. I flew in the morning of the 1st, we rented electric scooters and drove around DC with really nothing to do. It was awesome. Afternoon came, we made it to National Park, to witness one of the best MLB games I’ve ever seen. After the game we had some fun, that part isn’t important to this story either 🙂

The next morning, I had a midmorning flight from DC to Milwaukee. Pretty routine, morning. Got some Chick-Fil-A nuggets for the flight, easy 90 minutes.

I was one of the last to board the plane, just me, my backpack and some Chick-Fil-A. It was a very full flight, I just went to the back of the plane, saw a family of 5. Dad (35ish), Mom (35ish), Big Brother (maybe 10 yrs old), Sister (8ish) and little Brother (4ish). It was very clear from the beginning, they were having a really tough day. Dad was really struggling, we made eye contact and an instant connection was made. Getting ready for takeoff, it was clear others around me started to get upset with the kids. Rolling eyes, etc. I decided to strike up a conversation with the family. I could tell they didn’t really want to talk, but hey, I’m bored and these other guys on the plane seem like a bunch of stiffs.

So I start with older brother. Simple “What’s up buddy?” He then says, and I’ll never forget it: “I need to go say goodbye to Grandpa.” Hmm, that’s odd I thought, then tears started from Dad. Oh, maybe it’s a funeral, or a grave visit. This is getting deep.

Mom and Dad go all in. Tell me the story. Grandpa is on life support, losing a battle with cancer. The son is a successful business man in Washington DC, and his Dad is dying.

This is October 2, 2019. My mother passed away from Cancer April 25, 2019. I then started talking righ Dad. Looked at him in the eye, both of us crying at this point, told him I know what he’s dealing with. Saying good bye sucks. Told him I did it months earlier. He asked me what I said.

What does a loving son say to their parents? Something we can always think about afterwards, but what about in that moment. Do we say “Don’t go” or something that we have no control of. Do we say “I love you” that’s the obvious one. What do we say? Why did we wait this long to say it if it’s important to say?

He wanted to know. I could tell he’s really intelligent, I’m sure very successful, I also bet he’s never lost for words. But he doesn’t know what to say to his dad before he passes. I could tell it was really important to him.

So, what did I say? I told him, what I’ll tell you now. I knew this would be the last time to speak to my mom, it was 2 days before she passed. I had spent the past few days with him and my father. I went in, hugged her. Told her I love her, then was lost for words. I then said, “I’m going to follow you and do what you always did. I’m going home to my take care of my kids, my wife, your grandchildren.” She smiled and laid down. That was it.

Was that the right thing? I think so. Our job is to take care of each other. My mom always took care of us, I needed to now take care of my family.

The dad looked at me. Really broke down. The mom then told me that is the best advice. Honor your parents, by taking care of your own family. The dad was struggling with did he honor his parents enough. He spent the last 10 years building his own family, running his business. Being a provider. He was struggling, was it a good thing? Was taking care of his family a good way to honor his Dad? I think so.

3 thoughts on “What do you say?

  1. Tom, I always can’t wait to hear what’s on your mind and how we all can learn even a little something. I agree that doing what we can to take care of our families is so important. I hope that he understood the words you said are so true. Saying what we can if possible the last time to our parents just to let them know the one thing they would want is to love and cherish our loved ones. I’ve heard you from the heart talk about how hard your mother’s passing was and to give even someone who you felt would know exactly what to say mean so much. Assisted them in so many ways. Outstanding how strangers in our weakest moment can be the best shoulder for us. Thanks again Tom.


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