“Things Left Unsaid” by Justin Hunt
This is what I said then, well, this is what I wrote and had read. I was scared, too scared to read it aloud myself. I was scared for a lot of reasons, none of which were good, so I had the priest read them at her funeral. And to this day it haunts me. It was four plus years ago and it still haunts me.
I wrote it the night before her funeral, but couldn’t bring myself to speak it. It may have been that the words hurt too much. But maybe that was just an excuse, something I told myself then. I told myself a lot of things in those few days, but there are even more things I wish I would have told her instead. The things I didn’t say, the things left unsaid, these are the things that haunt me.
On the morning of her funeral, I handed the priest a slip of paper. On it, the things I felt needed to be said to those in attendance that day and especially to those that were there in the preceding days. Maybe it was an attempt to sooth them, to calm my wife or to somehow answer why this had happened to us. Most cried as it was read, but I didn’t for I knew there were words missing, words that would make me cry. These words the words I failed to say to her, they would make me weep.
I did read to her during those few days I spent with her. Words written months or years ago by a person not involved. Words that, at the time, seemed to replace the words I should have spoken to her. I should have spoken words from my heart, my soul, not from the pen of the stranger.
Sometimes I worry I have forgotten about her. It seems so long ago, but memories still flash through my mind. I can still remember the look of fear in my wife’s eyes. I can still remember the look of hopelessness in the nurses’ eyes, but I can’t remember the look of my daughter’s eyes. Maybe in some way I had already forgotten about her then, I had forgotten to say the things she needed to hear.
The priest read other things that day. The book I read to her, the book of words that replaced the words I should have spoken aloud. “Will you still love me if I’m big or small? I will love you no matter what.” I cried as he read those words, maybe this time because I knew they were wonderful words of hope and love, but not the words that I should have said. I had a chance to say what needed to be said to her again that day, as I missed my chance in the days before that I had spent with her. Instead I offered these words for the priest to read.
“I struggle today with emotions that are more intense then I have ever felt before. Emotions of pain, anger, confusion, grief and sadness, none of which are stronger than the other. Today though, one emotion has overtaken them and brings me comfort. I have never felt more thankful than I am today. Thankful for a family who’s love is so deep. Thankful for those who share in our grief just to make it a little easier for us. Most of all, I am thankful for the eight precious days I was able to spend with Sofia Rose. She was able to accomplish more in those eight days than most do in a lifetime. She fought so hard to change the things she could and showed such strength in accepting the things she could not. She will forever be my inspiration. I will never forget how hard she fought to be part of this family. I will never again take this family for granted, and I will never forget what little Sofia taught me. She was a surprise and a blessing from the beginning, who never ceased to amaze us. We will forever be proud and honored to be her parents. She was my precious little girl, now she will always be everyone’s precious little angel.”
In it though, I never mentioned the ways I had failed her and how I would continue to fail her. She showed strength in accepting her fate; I knew I would never be able to accept myself. I still cannot accept it. It never really sunk in that I had forgotten about her in that speech until much later. In it, I had forgotten to speak to her and, as I thought about it, I had never truly spoken to her during her short life. I know now that there were words I left unsaid.
Shortly after she was born the nurse asked me to come to a room where she was. A room with way to much space and way too many people for something so small. I was told by a nurse to reach and touch my daughter (the fear inside me kept that natural reaction from me). I was afraid that I could harm her. I reached out, put one finger in the palm of her hand and said nothing. Looking back at it now, I know it wasn’t that I didn’t know what to say, I was scared and afraid. She must have been scared and afraid herself and I am haunted by the fact I didn’t say the words she needed to hear. It’s ok, don’t be afraid, daddy’s here. There were so many people there and the room was so big, she must have been afraid and I was there holding her tiny little finger. Fingers that curled around mine, fingers with life in them, when minutes before they had none, and I failed to speak. I hate myself for failing her then. I hate myself for leaving those words left unsaid.
Perhaps in some way I asked the priest to read those words I wrote because I didn’t want to take responsibility for them. Maybe I refused to take responsibility for a speech that did not include these words:
I am sorry Sofia, I am sorry for failing you when you needed me. I am sorry I could not change your fate, and I am sorry I do not know the colors of your eyes. I promise to never forget you. You will be a part of me for every Christmas, for every good moment I have, for every bad moment I have, and for every beat my heart takes. I love you.
As time has passed I find myself trying fruitlessly to make up for the ways I failed her. I fight every day to show the same strength she showed me then. I try to accept it like she did. I wish my sorrow could pass peacefully like her life did in my wife’s arms. I am able to cope most days, as the sorrow and grief has become part of me. In some ways, I am not sure what I would do, or who I would be without it. One day I know I will be able to speak to her, and these words will be spoken aloud, so as they will no longer be the things I left unsaid.
Thank you to Justin for sharing this with me and the others that will read it. I am sure Justin is not the only dad out there that feels this way. I know I have many things I wish I would have said to my children.