A sequel to my previous post “The Power of Hello.“
I was sixteen when I watched my mom die.
I remember sitting in the uncomfortable hospital chair by her bed (where do they get those things?), surrounded by beeping machinery, tubing, and cold. Her frail body lay haphazardly on the bed, bandana slipping off her bald head, and plastic tubes protruding from her mouth, forcing her chest up and down with creepy fake-breathing sounds. She was awake for the first time in days and I was excited to see her. She struggled to hold a cheap pen up to a small yellow notepad to scribble her last words to me.
The two words that would destroy my life for years to come.
[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”Please leave.”[/pullquote]
It felt like my soul had been ripped from my body and a wave of devastation pummeled over me like a tsunami. She was my mother, my best friend, my confidante, my world. I respected her wishes, slowly got up from that hated hospital chair as if I was underwater, and swam out of the room. That was the last time I saw her awake. A few days later, I watched them remove the tubes, watched in mortified silence as she gasped for air, and I stared blankly as the second hand made its way around the clock to hit 9:00 pm exactly. Then she was gone.
So I did what she asked. I left. I spent the next fifteen years running from those words, the rejection, the despair. I ran into the arms of drugs, alcohol, hospitals and rehabs. I ran from two little words into the depths of insanity.
Why did she want me to leave? She obviously didn’t love me. In my mind, I became unloveable. Not good enough. Dismiss-able. Unwanted. I let these thoughts become my identity.
Fifteen years later I finally stopped running and turned my life around. A story of divine intervention for another day. In the midst of the resurrection of my soul, I learned a huge lesson on the power of words. It matters what we say to people. It matters what we say to ourselves. And it is extremely important how or if we accept the words of other people.
It took me a long time to realize, even though obvious, that “please leave” wasn’t about me. She didn’t want her daughter to see her dying, weak, helpless. Obviously, right? But I accepted those words as personal and internalized it. I gave them power over me.
We really must remember that the words people say resonate from what’s in their hearts into the world from a very personal perspective that often has absolutely nothing to do with us, no matter how close the relationship. There’s no real way to know exactly what another person means when they say things. It’s our choice whether to accept the words or not, to let them kill our joy or not. Be careful who you listen to, hang out with, and be careful of the things you read and watch. Words have power. Our dreams, confidence, self-esteem, and future success can be erased or boosted by accepting the words of others.
I misunderstood my mother’s “goodbye”. I allowed it to destroy me. A hard lesson learned, I am now more aware of my own words and have to choose carefully what I say to people, especially those closest to me. This has helped me re-evaluate what I say to my husband, my son, and people I work with. Am I speaking love and encouragement, or am I speaking words of death? Dream-killers? Am I a spreader of negativity? Sometimes I am.
The good news is I have the power to change that. So do you.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” Proverbs 18:21