Reflections on a Tragedy | “What I Should Have Said”

On Wednesday night David Austin Balfour, a member of my high school graduating class, died in a car accident.

Since I heard about David’s death I have had this gnawing feeling in my gut. It’s one of those feelings that just won’t go away. When these kinds of events happen I can’t help but think about it. And when the event includes something that just doesn’t make sense I really have to try and make some sense of it. I have to think about it over and over until some clarity comes. It came to me this afternoon as I read and re-read what so many who cared about David said and wrote on his Facebook page.

There are so many questions that we want answers to. There are so many thoughts about what was and what could have been. Even what should have been. There are so many memories of good times and hopes for “soon” times. There are so many words, ideas and desires that were shared. But, that is where our grief and heartbreak crash headlong into our regret.

While it has been many years since I have seen David, I understand the emotions that come in moments like this. My brother-in-law also died in a car accident a year ago. He was 24 years old. I get it. I do. What makes these hours and days since David’s death so painful is the reminder that while many things WERE said, and many things WERE shared, there remains this feeling of “What I Should Have Said…” still lingering.

The questions that come to mind are like these:

  • Did he know how much I cared for him? About him?
  • Did he understand how much he meant to me?
  • Why didn’t I ever tell him how much it meant to me that one time he did… fill in the blank.

All of these ideas run through our minds because the thought that something that should have been said was left unsaid begins to fray at the edges of our sanity. Regret is the constant reminder that something was left unfinished. There is something incomplete about all of this. Take it from me, don’t go there. Don’t do that. It won’t change anything. And it may do more harm than good.

What we have to do is to not let this tragedy be in vain. Would we prefer that David were here with us? Yes, there is no doubt about it. I don’t know of anyone that wouldn’t want that. But, we don’t get to make that choice. That one, that one choice, is outside of our reach. But, there is another choice that we can still make. It’s a choice that I think both honors David and helps us all to heal if we make it.

Make the decision to never again worry about, “What I Should Have Said.” Make the decision, that from today until the end of your days, you will strive to not leave any unfinished business. Right now, today, tell that someone, the one you are thinking about right now, who needs to hear from YOU that thing that you have been waiting for the “right” time to say.

There is no better time than now.

There will never be a better day, than today.

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