The Phone Call
When I was young and about to leave home for the first time to go out into the world on my own, my mother cried. I knew she would keep it all together until that last moment when I was ready to say goodbye. Even though I wasn't moving far...only a few miles away it was breaking her heart to see me grow up and move out of the house.
As I started to leave, we hugged and made a promise to each other that day NOT to say goodbye. We both agreed that instead of saying goodbye, we would never let a night go by, for the rest of our lives, without saying "I love you."
And so we began a ritual...or what I like to call a tradition. We kept that promise to each other from that day forward. Every single night for the next 35 years, we called each other before we went to sleep at night to say I love you. It didn't matter if we had enjoyed each other's company that same day. It didn't matter if we had talked on the phone earlier that day. One of us would end the day with a phone call so that we could say, I Love You.
It's probably hard for the average person to understand this or to even believe it, but we never missed a call in over 35 years. Even when I lived in Japan for a few months or when I traveled all over the country on business, nothing stopped that phone call each night. If either of us were sick, we still made that call just before going to sleep for the night.
Now keep in mind, in those earlier years, there were no cell phones so there were times when I found myself in inconvenient places and difficult situations that made it hard to get to a phone. But it didn't matter where I was or what I was doing, I found that phone and made that important call so that we could hear each other say those three little words. We never broke that promise to each other.
Years later, my Mom suffered a sudden massive stroke one night. I rushed to the hospital but the doctors said she showed no signs of life and was considered not eligible for life support. I sat there in that hospital room next to her bed and held her hand close to my heart, hoping she would show any sign of knowing that I was there. Her beautiful blue eyes were open and for a few seconds it seemed she knew I was there, but the doctors said it wasn't possible.
I was so desperate to know that she could hear me begging her not to leave me yet and how I could not live without her. But the doctors said it was too late and she was gone. My heart was broken in a million pieces and I sobbed until there were no tears left to cry that night.
I reached for more tissues on the table next to her bed and then I saw the telephone. For some reason I felt an overwhelming urge to pick up that receiver and put it to my ear and make that last phone call. While holding her hand, I spoke into the phone and told my mother that it was okay to go now and that I loved her far more than she ever knew. I told her that I was calling to let her know that this was still not a final goodbye. I said, "I love you."
And at that precise moment, my mother squeezed my hand and blinked her eyes. I gasped for breath as I looked at her beautiful face. To this day, I know she smiled back at me before she closed her eyes, knowing that we had kept our promise to the end