This Is What You’ll Wish

We’ve told you about the story of Johnny Gunther before. A brilliant young boy—precious, fun and funny, headed for Harvard—Johnny was the pride and joy of two loving parents. And then, suddenly, there was a trip to the doctor. Then a diagnosis. And finally, a fifteen-month battle with a brain tumor and a life that ended too soon. 

At the end of the book, Death Be Not Proud (which every parent should read), Johnny’s mother Frances reflects on the loss of her son. What is left, she asks, what does a person think and feel, looking back on the all too brief time they had with their kid? 

“I wish we had loved Johnny more.” 

That was it. That was what she kept coming back to. Not that they didn’t love him—no one can read the book and not be struck by what a wonderful family they were. It’s that, when everything is stripped away, when there is nothing left, all she could think of were the opportunities she could have seized to appreciate him more. She couldn’t help but remember the things she took too seriously, the moments that slipped by, where she could have been more expressive, or laid next to him a little longer, or been kinder instead of doing the “responsible” thing. 

Let us hope that we never have to experience such a loss. No parent should ever have to bury a child. But still, let’s try to think about the end of our own lives. What will we think then? When we are reflecting on our lives, when we are running out of time, what will we wish for? 

We’ll wish we had loved them more. Even if we told them 1,000 times in a 1,000 ways every single day, we’ll think about how woefully short we came to expressing just how much they mean to us. 

So let us try harder. Just a little. Right now, while we still can. Love them more, while they’re still here and so are we.

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