One Mother’s Day morning a troubling thought crossed my mind. You’ve never, ever, in your whole life, told your mother you love her. What if she dies and you have to live with that for the rest of your life?
What reason did I have for not telling Mum I loved her? I didn’t know I had to! Such words were never spoken in our home. My parents loved each other and they loved their five children, but our family didn’t hug and say mushy things such as “I love you.”
My parents were also loved by their parents, but there were no hugs and sweet-talk there either. Mum’s mother had been a child immigrant to the country and worked as a domestic helper when she was just eight years old. Before that, she’d lived in an orphanage in London. She had no memories of her mother. None.
Naturally, my grandmother wasn’t big on outward shows of affection. Hence, my mother didn’t receive any I-love-yous either, and she wasn’t good at giving affection to her children, except when they were in the baby and toddler stages.
Everyone in my family was supposed to translate warm meals, clean beds and good clothing as “love.” But, seeing love in action doesn’t make up for failing to hear the words I love you.
That Mother’s Day, I felt God speaking to me, telling me to break down that barrier. He told me that my mother needed to hear me say, “I love you.” And I needed to say it!
Mum lives three hours away, so it wasn’t possible to tell her face-to-face. I phoned.
At first, I wished her a happy Mother’s Day. Then we talked about the weather, other members of the family and Dad’s health. All the while, the words I love you were burning in my mind. When you’ve never said those words to someone, they don’t just roll off your tongue.
Finally, when I felt our conversation winding down, I blurted, “I love you, Mum.”
She said, “I love you too, dear,” just as if she’d been saying it to me all my life.
My friend, Joan, grew up in a home similar to mine. When she married, Joan always included her mother, a widow, in family celebrations and holidays. They shopped together, went to church together and laughed together. They seemed closer than most mothers and daughters.
Then, one day, while at work, Joan received a phone call—her mother was in an ambulance headed for the hospital. She’d had a heart attack.
On the way to the hospital, one thought weighed heavily on Joan’s mind—she needed to tell her mother she loved her. The idea had occurred to her many times over the years, but the words just wouldn’t come out.
She’d promised herself that the next time she saw her mother, she’d tell her she loved her. Now that “next time” had come!
“God, let me get to the hospital in time to tell Mum I love her,” Joan prayed.
Joan arrived at the hospital in time to see her mother being wheeled through the emergency doors by ambulance attendants. She ran down the corridor beside the gurney, grasped her mother’s hand and shouted, “I love you, Mum.”
Joan’s mother replied by squeezing her hand. She was too weak to talk. A few hours later she passed away.
Joan thanks God for giving her one last opportunity to finally say the words she’d been trying to say for so long. Sometimes, a crisis is needed to motivate us to speak the words I love you, but we can’t all depend on having a last-minute miracle like Joan did.
Say, Don’t Think
Verbalising love changes a relationship. That Mother’s Day when I phoned Mum and told her I loved her, something marvellous happened between us. A warmth I hadn’t known before came into our relationship.
I loved my mother and she loved me, but there was a stiffness in us that isn’t there now. Today, we never end a conversation without saying, “I love you.” We hug whenever we see each other. The words I love you broke down a barrier. There’s a new freedom in Mum. After our encounter, she started hugging my siblings and expressing her love to them too.
I also changed. It has become normal for me to tell my husband, my children and other family members that I love them. It was God who put the words I love you, Mum, in my heart, but they couldn’t stay in my heart.
It’s not enough to think in a loving way or even to act on our love. We must speak the actual words. People need to hear them. Saying those words to my mother for the first time was tough. They stuck in my throat. I needed to force them out. After I did, it became much easier to say them again and again and again.
Too Much Love?
Is it possible to overdo love words? Do people get tired of hearing they’re loved?
Elizabeth is an extremely warm person. She tells her family and friends that she loves them every time she sees them. She says it in cards and Facebook messages. She demonstrates it in hugs and glowing compliments.
Wherever Elizabeth goes, there’s a flock of people surrounding her. Why? They know she’ll squeeze them tightly and say, “I love you, beautiful.” It’s a rare person who gets too much love.
Not all of us can be as expressive as Elizabeth, but that’s no excuse for never putting our love into words.
Some have fallen into a stubborn routine of never verbalising feelings of love. They say, “I’ve been like this my whole life and I’m not about to change now.” We can get away with that attitude in some aspects of life, but not in the love department.
Love must be expressed.
And there’s no better time to get started, no better time to say “I love you,” than on Mother’s Day.
Great Ways To Express Your Love
Love is the founding principle of Christianity. Everything else is built on that. Jesus showed His love through His words and actions. Parents, especially in their later years when they’ve spent time mulling over their mistakes in parenting, need their children to express love to them. Love translates into forgiveness, something every parent needs, because not one of us is perfect.
Here are some ways to express love:
- Send a handwritten note. These are treasured more each year because of their rarity.
- Give the gift of time. A relaxed visit, a shared meal at a restaurant or a shopping trip together—these simple things enhance relationships.
- Phone often. Try to end every call with “I love you.”
- Include your parent(s) in family trips and outings.
- Allow your parent(s) time alone with their grandchildren. This practice benefits everyone in the family.
- Give a warm hug. Nothing says “I love you” more than that.
- Give the gift of listening. Ask questions that will bring out your loved one’s story. Stories beg to be told.
- Send an “I appreciate you” card—for no special reason.
We’ve all received God’s love unconditionally, no strings attached. When we were sinful and undeserving, He loved us. Therefore, we can afford to be generous and love even the undeserving. As the Bible says, “Freely you have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8).