I Never Learned To Say I Love You

18 augustus 2021

My family had other ways of expressing their love

“Happiness is something that multiplies when it is divided” — Paulo Coelho

I rarely told my parents I loved them. They had a hard time doing it too so they never taught us. A couple of months before my mother died, my brother and I visited my parents’ house. Before we were heading out again, my mother told us she loved us. While walking towards the door, my brother grunted softly. I gave my mother a hug, returning her words. I couldn’t remember the last time she used those words.

Another time she told us she was proud of the kids she had brought into the world. And that made me happier than hearing ‘I love you’ a thousand times.

My family had other ways of expressing love. My mother would cook our favorite meals on our birthdays. She would always celebrate big moments like failing a driver’s test (she expected me to pass, we ate the cake anyway). My parents told us they were proud of us so many times. They encouraged us to go out and do our own thing, explore the world, explore life.

“Don’t feel obligated to visit me when I’m in the hospital,” my mother would say, after another therapy session. But I did, and I tried to go as often as I could. I didn’t want her to feel alone. What is supposed to keep you going after five different types of treatments over a course of 10 years and still lose the battle? She never wanted me and my brother to feel bothered by her illness and she hid a lot of her feelings when we were around. Only after she passed away I found out she was extremely angry for knowing she was going to die.

I wish I had known that. I wish I had the opportunity to be there for her and most of all, tell her I loved her.

The night before she died I sat next to her bed in a chair, holding her hand. I slept a little but I couldn’t leave her side. She squeezed my hand now and then, telling me she knew I was there. All of the love I had, I transferred to her by holding her hand. There was nothing else I could do. There was nothing else she had wanted me to do.

Only recently I started to tell my friends how much they mean to me and it brings me a lot more joy than I expected. Expressing it, but also hearing it from them. It doesn’t have to be those exact words, things like ‘I love spending time with you’ is just as heart-warming. Realizing what words like these can do, a small way of acknowledging you are happy for having someone in your life, makes me regret not expressing this to my parents more often.

Though by writing about them and telling their stories I hope to have found a way after all.

Gemaakt door: Emma
Emma Kemp werkt sinds december 2020 bij NEWConnective als communicatiemedewerker/programmamaker, en eerder al in 2019 als communicatiemedewerker. Ze studeerde taalwetenschap aan de UvA en deed een master journalistiek in Antwerpen. Ze heeft als marketeer gewerkt en werkte als (eind)redacteur voor (online) tijdschriften.

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