In a wonderfully challenging book, The Four Things That Matter Most, Dr. Ira Byock, a leading palliative care physician who works with the dying, submits that there are four things we need to say to our loved ones before we die: “Please forgive me,” “I forgive you,” “Thank you,”and “I love you.”
Dr. Byock is right, but, given the contingencies, tensions, wounds, heartaches, and ups and downs within our relationships, even with those we love dearly, it isn’t always easy to say those words clearly, without any equivocation.
But there is no time like Advent and Christmastime to say these words to the people that matter the most to us. When I was first ordained, my father put me in an untenable position. If I called him to ask how he was doing, he said I was bothering him. When I didn’t call him or stop by to see him, he said I didn’t care and the people in the parish meant more to me than he did. He put me in a no-win situation.
So I wrote my father a letter, touching on the four things above. I had to slip it under his apartment door. What I said must have touched his heart, because the next time I called him, his voice had a different tone and he started to be the loving father that I knew he could be. He stayed this way for the next thirty years of his life and we had a much better relationship.
Thanks to Ben Mullins for the picture.
As Christmas approaches, maybe a letter with four things is needed in YOUR Christmas card or along with the present YOU are giving someone. If not now, then when?
WE CAN’T EMBRACE GOD’S FORGIVENESS IF WE ARE SO BUSY CLINGING TO PAST WOUNDS AND NURSING OLD GRUDGES!
I’m sure you know someone who could profit from today’s Daily Treat. You can also find it on my Podcast: Treatsforthesoul.org.