Plan your words carefully

November 20, 2009|By LISA TEDRICK PREJEAN

Can you believe that Thanksgiving is next week?

It seems as if fall has flown by, and Christmas is just around the corner.

If we can negotiate our way around the grocery store sometime over the next couple of days, we'll be all set for family gatherings and the Christmas shopping season to come.

Next week, most of us will have the opportunity to spend time with people we don't see very often. Perhaps it will be the last chance we have to talk with friends and loved ones.

Think back to last Thanksgiving. Is there someone who will be missing at your family table this year? Life is so fleeting, and yet we sometimes don't take the opportunities granted to us, especially during the holidays.


As consumers, sometimes we think more about what we need to acquire than whom we need to inspire.

The words we say are not given as much thought as the things we buy.

I've thought about this several times this fall.

The soccer players would stop by during my planning period and ask me to call "Coach" with a question. I'd dial his number and, without thinking, start the conversation with, "Hi, sweetie. How are you?"

After a few phone calls like that, the players would look for excuses to get me to call my husband so they could echo the terms of endearment in the background: "Hey, sweetie. What ya doin'? I love you. Smooch, smooch."

One day I silenced them with a challenge: They each need to become the kind of man whose wife still sweet talks him after 20 years.

They haven't made fun of us since. Perhaps it was the threat of extra laps.

Seriously, I speak to my husband that way not only because he deserves it, but because I never know when our last conversation will take place.

What do I want him to remember? A nagging, disapproving tone or a friendly, adoring one?

I've had good "coaches" over the years who have blessed me with fond memories of last conversations.

In my last conversation with my dad's father 14 years ago, I was affectionately fussed for making a fuss. Pap told me I shouldn't have bothered with baking homemade, spiced bread for him, that I should have been home taking care of my husband and baby. I told him there was another loaf at home. He just smiled and thanked me for caring about him, too.

I'll never forget the last words my other grandfather spoke to me. He was in the hospital and my grandmother's birthday was the next day. I called to see if I could be his personal shopper. Would she like candy or flowers?

"Ah, hon, you don't have to do that," he said, "but if you want to, buy her some candy. Flowers fade away."

When I stopped by the next day to visit, Pap was pretty much gone. Each time, I saw him after that, he was not able to communicate verbally. I've thought about his last words to me many times since. He knew my grandmother wasn't exactly a green thumb. She loved candy, though. He chose to express that sentiment in a very kind, eloquent way. What a good example he was.

This Thanksgiving, as we gather with friends and loved ones, carefully consider your words. What if those were the last words they heard from you?

Make each one count.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page.

The Herald-Mail Articles