My wife Cathy and I went to the apple orchard yesterday. The Honeycrisp is my favorite apple, and I welcome its return each autumn. It tells me we’ve made it through another year, but it also tells me time is swiftly passing. The seasons of a single life eventually run out, and those who love us are left to mourn our leaving.
We shouldn’t think we’re anyone special because of this. Eventually, we all leave; eventually, we all mourn. This is one of the dark corners I try to keep myself out of as the days go on. I assume we all have them—the places that trap us with our shame, guilt, and regret. As I age, I have to be more practiced at avoiding them.
My mother was the single most compassionate person I ever knew. This isn’t to say she was a saint. Like all of us, she had her flaws. Despite that fact, she always had an extraordinary optimism. She saw the good in people. She understood how to live kindly. She knew how to love. When I was a teenager, tormented by the sorts of worries I imagine most of us had when we were young—the insecurities, the fears, the doubts—I had trouble sleeping. My mother would sit at the edge of my bed and tell me, with her soft voice, to count my blessings, and she would sit there until I fell asleep. I never thanked her for her consolation and the hope she tried to give me. I never thanked her for always believing in me even during my darkest days.
I wish she could know I remember those nights when she did everything she could to ease my misery. I wish I could tell her about the Honeycrisp apples, and the sounds of insects chirring in the early-autumn dusk, and the way the cool morning air feels when I step outside, and the way the light leaves us earlier and earlier at the end of a day. I would tell her about the dark corners where I come close to losing myself—they usually come at night—but then I hear her voice. “Count your blessings,” she tells me, and I do. My lovely wife Cathy, our orange tabby cat Stella, our friends and family, the blessing of being able to do what I love, the countless students I’ve been fortunate to teach, a life of riches. As I count the blessings one by one, I recall my mother’s weight on the edge of my teenage bed and how with her assurance I let go of my worries and my regrets, and I drifted off to sleep.
Do you have a person you miss? Maybe it’s someone who believed in you, someone who loved you unconditionally. Maybe this person is now gone, or maybe it’s a person who was important to you even though you never met them. What do you wish you’d told them? Write it now. I’d tell my mother thank you. I’d tell her despite my missteps along the way and everything that haunts me, I’m all right. Because of her faith, I’m able to love my life.