Though I often forget or avoid opportunities to make calls I should have made, send the note I should have sent or meet the person I should have met – I don’t mind the reminders when they come, the great lesson that: reaching out is a two-way connection both parties need. It is probably one of the most important lessons in life – and yet too often I fear, it is one many people avoid.
I dropped the ball.
Early October, 2017 in Vancouver for two days, ostensibly for ‘big date with someone I met online’ and to meet two guys, ironically both with initials BB. I met with my friend Barry – we talked business, caught up on family news, talked about his health (he was being treated, successfully at that time, for bladder cancer). I didn’t have time to meet with Basil, the other BB (a Musing reader, his wife was in a hospice dealing with brain cancer). As for that big date, it was spectacular but the fit wasn’t.
As readers of this column well know, Barry died this year, April 1st. My date, a one-time experience – I’ve not talked with her since. What stuck in belly was an uncomfortable feeling – I’d begged off meeting with Basil and he graciously understood. But I never followed up, or called, or inquired. Until the other day.
My daily report from MailChimp of opt-ins and opt-outs; there was Basil’s name – and a new email address. I was relieved, and nervous – time to grip my error and apologize.
The classic challenge – where to start, what to say?
I wrote an “I don’t know what to say” apology – re-established the connection. As I expected to learn, Basil’s wife of 46 yrs. had passed. His reply expressed no anger about the missed meeting, expressed appreciation for my contact. And we’ll stay in touch – I know I will make an effort and expect he might too.
Did you ‘not call when you should have’?
Pick up the phone, sent a note or card, or go face-to-face.
Did you avoid someone who was sick, someone who died?
With all people in your life who are alive – whatever their age, it’s never too late, unless you do nothing.
You have no way to know its value to someone else – but the doing has much value. Yes, mostly for them – but for you too.
We all miss opportunities, we all avoid difficult meetings – that’s probably ‘normal’. But the feeling isn’t normal. The issue isn’t trivial. It’s the morality of it, it’s walking our own talk. We can talk about or right about ‘doing the right thing’ but I think (this may not be normal but I think it is widespread) avoiding the difficult situation is too often a self-excuse we bury, we hide, we avoid talking about because it is embarrassing to admit that ‘we weren’t there for someone’ or ‘we didn’t know what to say’.
What is the answer? My late friend Barbara schooled me. She was dying. She said, “just call. Let’s talk”, and I did call. We talked about her cancer a bit. Mostly we talked and talked and talked. And laughed.