One of the more often used phrases is; “it goes without saying”, which I find odd because a phrase speaks of not saying something, is so often said. In my upcoming book: Go the Third Mile: lessons in extraordinary friendship, I write a chapter about one of the most valuable lessons I learned from my father. The principles of the lesson are timeless yet they ring even more true during this pandemic. They also fly in the face of “it goes without saying”.
Albert Marini had a big personality and was gregarious and outgoing. He would talk to anyone and quickly made friends. He was a natural leader and people gravitated to him. He also had an uncanny knack for drawing people into his orbit and I was always amazed at just how loyal his friends and employees were to him. In 1993, Dad developed a tumor in his thigh and had to have the quadriceps in his left leg completely removed. To the surprise of the doctors and his employer, Dad was back at work in less than 5 months and continued to work every day for the next five and half years. Just about the time Dad should have been declared cancer-free, he developed pain in his left side and down his leg. There was another tumor only this time it was larger and more aggressive.
We spent the last three months of 1999 pretty much at the hospital. His doctor told him “six years ago I fought to save your leg, now I’ll be fighting to save your life”. They were forced to amputate his left leg and some of the torso above it. My mother and I would work all day and then leave and go to the hospital each night. She often spent weekend nights sleeping there and when complications developed that forced a return to the hospital, she stayed with him continually, sleeping in a chair at night. I can’t thank the people at The Electric Furnace Company and The Keener Rubber Company for their loyalty to my parents. Dad came home one more time on December 23, we had Christmas and then he died on December 29, 1999.
My dad taught me a lot of things, but one lesson was imparted during those final months of his life. I spoke of spending evenings at the hospital with my dad, and he and I spent a great deal of time talking about all the things he needed to say to people if he died. While I believe he thought he would beat cancer again, there was just enough doubt in his mind that he began to prepare. My mom and I would eat in shifts and during the time I was alone with Dad he would go down the list of special people in his life telling me what to say to them because he might not have another chance. He gave me messages for friends, relatives, colleagues and even my brother, sisters along with my mom. Because my dad was so popular we had to have three sessions of calling hours and I gave his eulogy at the funeral. I spent all of that time giving those messages to each person Dad had one for. People would come up expecting to comfort me and I would wind up comforting them as they broke into tears when they heard what my father wanted them to hear.
I guess I have some of my dad’s personality and maybe that’s why he asked me to do it. It was one of the most grueling and yet rewarding tasks I’ve ever had to do. To be able to look those people in the eye and share with them how much my father trusted, appreciated, admired and loved them was a privilege I will always cherish. But it also taught me that lesson I have been writing about in this article; “never miss an opportunity to tell the people in your life just how much they mean to you”. My dad’s heart was breaking during those chats in the hospital because he knew he most likely wouldn’t get the chance to say those words to them himself, I never want to feel that same remorse.
If we are blessed enough by God to be of sound mind at the end of our life we will probably all have a few regrets. The one thing I’ve learned from this whole experience and believe me I put into practice, I never miss a chance to tell someone I love just how much I love them. My friends and family hear it all the time! Their text messages are filled with words of admiration, edification and adoration. I try and do the same with colleagues and customers in my business, I don’t want the people I value to ever question how I feel. Ephesians 1:16 says; “I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers”. Jesus told us that people would know we are his followers if we love one another. I truly beg to differ with that familiar phrase “it goes without saying”, because you never know when the last time you’ll talk with someone will be the last time. Never miss the chance to let people know how much you care. To paraphrase the old Billy Joel song;“Tell them about it”!
By Dean Marini