GENDUSA COLUMN: Too late to say goodbye

Published 10:30 am Wednesday, October 19, 2022

How often have I written these words of advice in my writing career, “Don’t put off life?” Yet, I did.  Sometimes we find that our hearts are filled with good intentions, but our brains are not cooperating. Does being too busy get us off the hook of guilt? No, when we fail to do what we should have done, we simply fail.

Such was the case with Peggy and me. Our friendship began over 30 years ago when she became a client who needed my help with interior design. As my career in design grew, her career in real estate soared. 

I doubt Peggy ever met an obstacle she couldn’t tackle, tame, or triumph over. She hailed from Boston with a thick accent that caused me to often say, “Huh!?” When God decided to create a friendship between a Tennessee-born mountain girl and a Harvard-educated Beantown gal, he must have needed a good old belly laugh. 

Peggy sent many customers my way throughout my career and believed in my skills more than I did. She applauded and celebrated the day I remarried after being a single mom for 20 years and was thrilled that she might worry less about my future. 

I never worried about Peggy. Her intellectual brilliance was secondary to her ability to work with all types of folks and care about each one. She nor I ever allowed money or trophy’s to be the end game; it was always about doing a job well.    

When I retired from design several years ago, I could never say no if she needed my aid with a remodeling job or an idea about where to place this or that. Then COVID came into our world and shut us all in and out of life.

Last year, I wrote a note on her Christmas card, “Peggy, let’s not let this year go by without a catch-up lunch!” When she tried to book the event, I was too busy and couldn’t go. Did I call her back to set up another date? No, I would do it …. later. 

Without warning, a radiant, funny, beautiful light dimmed suddenly on Oct. 7, 2022. Peggy was gone. When I was told by a mutual friend, my response was immediate, “No! She did not!” It was as if my brain could not accept or understand the words of death. I wanted to shout, “Wait, Wait!” But I knew the only person that waited too long was me. 

There is something about all of us that cannot accept finality. We do not grasp the knowledge that life can end suddenly, without notice, and that there are no “do-overs.” We cherish our friends and family, but how many do we fail because we didn’t take the time when we had the time? 

There is always a guilty feeling when someone we love dies before we have the opportunity to say goodbye, thank you, or express our affection. It can and will haunt us when we wait too late or too long to do what we should have done. 

However, there is redemption. There is no doubt that Peggy will stand at the gate with her finger raised, shaking it toward me when I, hopefully, go to heaven. Yep, she will recount the whole lunch situation, the putting off, the lagging behind, and I will shamefully shake my head. I already have rehearsed my response, “Peggy, they didn’t get rid of that accent up here, so I can’t understand a word you are saying!” And she will mockingly yell, “Bless your heart!”

I will hug that Beantown girl with all my soul, telling her how much she meant to me in my Southern drawl and how grateful I was for her life. And then we will sit down for lunch with all the others I didn’t take the time for, ask forgiveness of, or forget to do what I should not have forgotten.

With faith, there is redemption in all things. With belief, there is a certainty that life is just paused, not gone. With our understanding of a God who shows mercy, we know that through his grace, we will see those we grieve for again. When we reach where they are, our guilt is over. 

Peggy lived by her faith. Her priorities were always in order, and I admired that. I just failed to tell her so. Peggy lived with value and honesty, and I never doubted anything she said. 

Yet, I didn’t take a moment to share how much I respected her remarkable life, wonderful friendship, and immeasurable love.

Now those moments are gone because I was too late.