Your next words to someone could be the last

Kari Thumlert

When I last spoke to my ex-fianc? “Doug” a little under six years ago, the conversation we had wasn’t a good one. Never did I imagine that the words we said to each other would be the last.

You see, we had had a fight. During our eight years together we always fought, but this time I had enough. I gave him his ring back and moved out. He tried and tried to make amends. But I refused to forgive him.

Our last conversation was about six months after we broke up. He tracked me down inside the Pierce College newsroom. We went outside and he asked me just to listen. I could hear he was sincerely sorry and had even done some growing. He told m-e how empty his life was without me in it. All he wanted that day was to hear that I forgave him, and although I just wanted to wrap my arms around him and tell him that my life was empty without him also, I wouldn’t say those three words “I forgive you.” I let anger dictate my words. The last thing he asked was “Can we at least be friends?” I replied with a very stern, “No.” and walked away.

That was the last time I saw or spoke to him.

About a year after that, I finally stopped having dreams and thinking about him.

Around the beginning of November of last year I had a dream about Doug. There wasn’t much to it, he held me while I slept the way he used to. That was it, just a comforting dream that left me feeling really good when I woke up the next morning. That dream reminded me that it has been five and half years since I had seen or talked with him. I realized I wanted to find out how he was, and I had some things I wanted to say. I could’ve have gotten his phone number in a matter of minutes using the investigative skills I have learned, but I didn’t want to call; I wanted to bump into him in a public setting. It took three months of going to our old hangouts until someone who knew both of us approached me.

“I have some news about Doug,” he said. “I’m not sure how to tell you this.” From the tone of his voice I thought he was going to tell me that Doug got married.

“Doug died,” he said. “He passed on October 22.”

I was overcome with shock and devastation as the words came out of his mouth about Doug’s accidental, sudden death. My heart sank as the realization set in that I would never see him again or get the chance to say the things I wanted to say. I was horrified that the last words I said to him were words of anger.

Two nights after bumping into our mutual acquaintance I had another dream about Doug. He was sitting on the edge of my bed and for some reason I knew we didn’t have much time. I said “I need you to listen to me.” He seemed bewildered, and it took a few minutes to get him to focus. Once I had his undivided attention, I said to him the things I had to say: “I forgive you, I am not angry anymore, I will be your friend forever.”

Then Doug smiled in response to what I said. After a few seconds that bewildered look was once again on his face he and asked, “Where have I been, why are my memories all fuzzy?” I told him he died. We had a brief conversation about the circumstances that led to his death and then he said he was tired. We both knew that once he fell asleep he would not wake up again. I said, “It’s okay, go to sleep.” I held his hand until he fell asleep and gave him a kiss goodbye on his lips. Not wanting to watch as he died, I woke up. It was strange, because instead of waking up feeling sad that Doug had passed, I felt totally at peace.

In my heart I want to believe that he heard me in that dream, but my head tells me differently. The truth is I completely regret that my last words to him were that I could not forgive him and that I no longer wanted to be friends with him.

My hope behind sharing this experience is if you are angry or resentful with someone and you think someday you may work it out, now you won’t wait. You will say what you have to say today, because someday may be too late. Although telling a person you are sorry in a dream, in a prayer or however brings some peace after the person has passed, it isn’t the same as telling it to them face to face while the person is alive. I’ve read many e-mails and reminders about this truth and never acted on it. I always thought, “That’s too bad for that person, there will be time for me.”

What I learned from this experience is there is not always time. Death is a reality and most of us have no idea who is next or when.

I know we are all incredibly busy while in college, but life is a gift. Take time to tell those you care about something nice before one of you parts. Who knows; it may be your last words.

Kari Thumlert can be reached at kthumlert@juno.com.