After Ian was born, I started keeping a notebook for him. It’s one of those black and white composition books–you know the kind.
I just wrote various things to him as they crossed my mind. I put current events in there and give him my thoughts, like the entries on 9/11 and the Oklahoma City bombing. The idea was that when he grew up, he could have it and read it, maybe even after I was gone. (You know, like to Florida or something.) I had a similar book for Matt that I wrote after we got engaged. I gave it to him as a wedding gift. I also have one for Evelyn, but I’m pretty sure she’ll never read it, so it’s a lot more like a journal.
Anyway, I was reading through Ian’s book, and for whatever reason, I decided to share one of the entires (letters, whatever.)
February 10, 2006
I was thinking about something last night when I was supposed to be sleeping.
When you’re six, it’s different. You say things and people might get mad at you or you might get in trouble. But all in all, people tend to forget the mean things little kids say.
But I want you to remember something–there will come a time when you will have to be accountable not only for the things you do, but for the things you say. In a book by Stephen King called The Green Mile, he says “A man’s mouth can get him more trouble than his pecker ever could, most of the time.” That’s not trouble at school like getting your card flipped, but trouble like saying something that you can never take back.
Once that cruel word comes out of your mouth, it’s out forever. You can’t “unsay” anything. Hurtful words make a brand on a person’s insides, and even if you are forgiven, even if they forget, you need to remember that the brand remains. They will always wonder why you said it–you must have had that thought in your head all along. It’s okay to say, “That makes me mad,” or “I don’t like that,” or “You did something I don’t like.” It’s never okay to say “You’re ugly,” or “stupid” or “You always do this” or “You never do that.”
These things don’t just apply to your friends and loved ones. There might be a kid at school that everyone picks on. You might find yourself in a situation where you could pick on that person, too. You should imagine yourself as that person, and feel those words from the inside. You can’t imagine how badly they can hurt–and who wants to look back and see they had such a negative impact on someone else’s life? How sad to think that what you left behind in another person’s mind is hurt.
One last thing–back at the beginning of January, thirteen coal miners got trapped in a mine. Twelve of them died because they ran out of breathable air. As they sat and waited for rescue or death, they wrote notes to their families in case it wasn’t the rescuers who arrived first.
Twelve of the thirteen died waiting. What must that be like? To sit and write out all of the things you want to say to your loved ones before the end of your life, and wish so much that you had said them in person.
Some of us say things that we would never want to be the last thing we said to someone, but there’s no guarantee that it won’t be. If there’s one thing your mother has learned over the years, it’s that, in this life, there are no guarantees. Remember that.
I love you,