Did I Say “I love you” Enough to Last a Lifetime

 

This was taken two weeks after my stroke when I was allowed my first day pass out of the hospital.

Within three months, my world has been turned upside down. I very recently had a cryptogenic stroke which left me with Broca’s aphasia and apraxia. Aphasia and apraxia are just fancy medical terms for saying that my expressive communication (speaking and writing) was devastatingly affected.

At the age of 31, with two boys to raise, a nursing career and training for a 1/2 marathon, a stroke was not on my agenda. Strokes very rarely affect someone of my years, but more so important then my age, was the age of my two children; 4 years old and 15 months. My kids were much too little and they needed their mother.

It was three days after my stroke where the shock had subsided and the gravity of what disabilities I had been left with came into focus. As much as I tried, communication with the rest of the world was not coming back as easy as I would have liked.

My sister was at my bedside, as she was most of the time that I spent in the hospital. We were working on my speech rehabilitation which was essentially what you would learn in early elementary school. She was reading out sentences that I was supposed to attempt to write.

I sat, crossed legged on my hospital bed with a note pad, trying to write “The dog was black.” I couldn’t do it. With what seamed like an hour, I scribbled “dog, black.” I knew that wasn’t correct. I knew that I had missed the connecting words of a sentence but I had no idea what they were. My internal dialogue could say this simple sentence, but when I opened my mouth or put pen to paper, all I could muster was “dog black.”

I could feel the sting of tears welling up in my eyes and the lump rising in my throat. At that very moment I was not frustrated, I was not feeling sorry for myself and I was not overwhelmed. All I could think of is what was the last thing I wrote to my boys. What was the last thing I told them? Would they remember any of the things that I had taught them?

I surely did not give them enough encouragement, enough words of praise and enough words of wisdom to get them through to adulthood. I surely did not say “I love you” enough to last a lifetime.

I had written letters to my boys since the day they were born, detailing their lives.  But, as life has gotten busier, the letters had been few and far in between. What if I could never write to them again? They need to know how perfect and how miraculous they are to me. I needed to tell them they are enough, I loved them more then anything and my heart beats for them.

How many words did I waste that didn’t mean anything. I regretted every time that I fought with my four year old about what type of pants to wear to Playschool. The times were I uttered the words, “I’m tired” or “I cant right now, I am busy.”

I should have used my energy to tell my four year old “the clothes on your body does not matter. I respect your choice to wear what you want.” Or “I will always have time for you, you are important.” I regretted the time I spent on Social media instead of writing the most amazing love letters to my children documenting every cherished memory. How I longed for those moments back.

My sister looked at me with compassion and empathy in her eyes. I gestured what I had wrote and with tears threatening to spill over, I could only say “Boys…Not Write.” She grabbed my hand. She looked at me and I knew that she understood what I was trying to say. She spoke words of encouragement and words of empathy. She said with such conviction that I would get better and would be able to say the things I so desperately wanted to tell my children.

Remarkably I did get better. With a lot of help from my husband, sister and speech pathologist and a lot of determination and hard work, I relearned sentence structure and began to speak and write again. I recovered enough to say what I so desperately wanted to express to my children. I make a point to focus my energy on choosing the words that come out of my mouth with hopes that I never forget the way this feels and what the stroke has taught me.

Among many things that this experience has taught me, (I am sure you will be sick of hearing about it but the stroke has been my greatest teacher) is that communication matters. Conversations matter. The words you choose matter. Talking leads to understanding and that is never a bad thing.

Words have a magical power to make people feel wanted, loved and special. They let people know they are not alone and even in extreme cases, to want to live another day. The opposite is true as well. Words can give sadness, anger, disgust and can break a child’s spirit. We can live in heaven or hell by the sentences we string together. What power! We can choose our words to give love to this world. If it’s honest, kind and is used to lift someone up, say it. Don’t let fear get in the way.

I want you to imagine that you are a child or young teenager. Remember when you felt like an utter disappointment and regretted your actions. Is it when you failed that math test? Is it when you cut your own hair (or your sister’s) or dropped a very breakable ornament?

Now, can you imagine when your mom, dad or a loved one found out and they said, “I understand that was a mistake. You will need to fix this, but we can work through it together. You have not disappointed me. My love for you is unconditional.”

How good would you feel? The words that they spoke can make you feel safe and supported and important to them.

Now, imagine that your loved one had a difference response. They rolled their eyes, sent you to your room and the look of disappointment haunted the lines in their face. How would you feel? Certainly not safe, or loved or important.

I try to remember this in every interaction with my children. Although it sometimes isn’t easy, I want them to feel loved and that I understand they are human and will make mistakes.

I am not pretending to be some sort of expert or prodigy of parenting. I have made many mistakes and will continue to do so. I have went to bed more often then not worried that I made the right choices for my children or said the right things. I think if we are honest, everyone has. In all our parenting wisdom, we are perfectly imperfect and will make blunders along the way. I have accepted that. But, what I do ask of myself is to choose to fix my mistakes and never let a relationship suffer for my impetuous response.

I see now with such certainty that words with intentions can bring about peace or can spew out venom that poisons the space around you. Words have the power to mend relationship, stitch together an open wound and heal the heart.

Say the things that matter to you. Have the conversations that you always wanted to have. Tell your children that your heart beats for them. We don’t know when we can get another chance.

It seams like a lifetime ago, however living with the aftermath of a stroke reminds me that it has not been long at all. It also reminds me to not take my second chance for granted. Now, everyday I try to live my life at the pace of my children. I read more stories, I have more playtime and attempt to see the world through my children’s eyes. At day’s end, when the last story is read and I tuck my children into bed, I ask myself,  “Did I give enough encouragement, or words of praise to last them into adulthood? Did I say ‘I love you’ enough to last a lifetime?”

I don’t know, but I’m working on it.

55 thoughts on “Did I Say “I love you” Enough to Last a Lifetime

  1. Very well said! So happy you have recovered and I know we very rarely talk but I want you to know you are thought of always. Sending love to all ❤

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I worked with a speech therapist from the get go and we worked on everything from preposition and sentence structure to conversation therapy. Even now, when I do presentations and speak in public I still work with her to prepare.
        I can ask her for the technical name of the therapy if you would like? You can email me and we can discuss it further.

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  2. Of course as I read that I was crying a lot! It is wonderful Kristen to read this. Really truly amazing and inspiring. I am so glad you did this.
    And in case I don’t say it enough you are amazing not only as a person recovering from s stroke but as a mother and friend! Love you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Kristen, you don’t know me, but I am your aunt Bea’s very good friend, we have been friends for 27 yrs, she worked for me at the Tea House in Lloydminster. I too had ‘an injury’ similar to a stroke, a blood clot wrapped itself around my spinal column between the T11-T12 area, 13 yrs ago. The last thing on my agenda as well. Never crossed my mind I would suffer such an injury. I chose to carry on and not let a set back such as this direct my life going forward. I live and travel on wheels and I make sure I enjoy each and every day. I make sure I let my family and friends know how important they are to me and I let them all know how thankful I am that I only suffered ‘this much’! I could have been much worse, and I am so very grateful to be able to direct my life down the road to the future. I know how fortunate I am to be able to see and live life on both sides of the street. Keep building on your determination and always set goals for yourself and yes, repeat often how much you love your family. You are a survivor!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your inspirational words. I too felt like I have been very blessed, it could have been way worse! I honestly feel like the stroke has given so much more then it’s taken away. I see life as an adventure that I am very thankful to be on.
      Thank you so much!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Well written and very inspiring . Thanks for sharing your story ! I am making more of a consious effort to use my words with more positive intentions. Glad you’re doing better!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you so much for sharing your story, you sound like a great loving mom and I hope you continue to stay healthy for you and your kids. I’m reading a book right now about unconditional parenting and after reading your post I wonder if you’ve read it too? If not, you may really really enjoy it. The author is Alfie Kohn. Good luck on your journey 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow. Thank you for sharing! The last paragraph got me…..so true…so real….tears flowing…you are strong and your kids are blessed to have you as a parent…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Beautifully written. As a medical SLP specializing in stroke rehab, and as a mother of two young children, I am touched by your words. Your progress is amazing and I wish you the best in your rehab journey. Your children are very lucky to have you as their mother.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you so much for this lovely reminder to live life one day at a time and to not let these precious days pass us by. I also suffered a stroke in March when I was 35 weeks pregnant. I lost partial vision so I was also blessed as it could’ve been a lot worse. I will definitely be reading your inspiring words often to help keep me grounded and as a reminder to live in the moment. I was doing a great job of doing that but I have gotten away from that and have let the busy day to day bustle get in the way of what’s more important. The stroke has blessed me to be able to become a stay at home mom to be with my beautiful daughters that I don’t want these fleeting years to go by where I don’t tell them “I love you” enough. Thank you for these beautiful words!! I’m so happy for your recovery and enjoy your boys every day!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, thank you so much for your kindness. I am so glad that you are able to stay home with your girls. I know the challenges that a stroke brings and the added mix of raising young children can be somewhat difficult. I commend you for it. Take care and I wish you all the best! 😊

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  9. I am also an SLP working in Stroke rehab with two young children. This was an excellent read and will be shared. Congratulations on your progress and I wish you continued success!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. This testimony really got me thinking. I hope to follow the example and start saying more often to my daughters how much love them, how much they are special to me and to the world, how pride i am and that they are never my disappointment. Thank you for sharing, for showing that tomorrow may be too late to show love, to share kind words and now is always the right time. This testimony arrived here at Portugal and hope it goes over the world to help change attitudes at time. All the best for you and your treasures! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. These words brought tears to my eyes. I am so grateful that you reached out to me. I wrote this blog post as a reminder for me to never let time slip away and I am in awe that it has traveled the world. I am so thankful that it has touched your heart. Thank you!

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  11. Reading your beautiful words, I could never have imagined you had ever experienced any trouble expressing yourself, in writing or otherwise.

    Still, your post shows so much love towards your children, that I’m sure they would have known – even if you had been unable to utter a single word 🙂

    A lovely post.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. What an amazing story! I am so glad you recovered and have your words back! What an inspiration you are. And what beautiful words you write. In my twenties, I worked with Aphasic children. It is hard to be trapped in a place without words. Thank you for sharing. I needed to be bopped into appreciation mode! Your story is,the best reminder ever!

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  13. Kristen, I hope you realize what a powerful woman you are to have been through what you have been through and come out on the other side like you have. My husband, yes the one I wrote about had a stroke that left him with slurred speech and severe balance problems. He too recovered and went back to work with no speech impairment and walking with a cane. I saw his strength and determination to get better.
    Being a nurse I have seen repeatedly the difference motivation and determination can make in a recovery. I can not imagine how many times those characteristics were multiplied for you with those beautiful children waiting for you to recover. I almost died as a child (See blog on that one if you want to) and as an adult in different situations. I truly believe almost dying or suffering the loss of something precious makes it worth more than anything in the world, especially when it concerns your children and family. You will be fine. Just keep on keeping on. You are certainly an inspiration to everyone, including me!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I defiantly have an appreciation for communication, loved ones and life. It has made me live with my heart wide open and love more then I have every thought possible.
      Thank you for you kind and compassionate words. I have so enjoyed reading your blog!❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I just adore your enlightenment. I am sorry you had to endure your stroke and the recovery, but I am blessed by your words and learnings and the reminder to LOVE LOVE LOVE everybody, every chance you get. SO, SOOOO GOOD. xo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. It’s been a bit a blessing in disguise and has been a bit of a crash course in compassion and living with my heart wide open….and it has taught more about living then I could have ever taught myself.
      Thank you for your kind words and thoughtful response. You are a true gem. So glad I found your blog!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. I really enjoyed reading this. I had a had multiple strokes 4 years ago which have led me with lasting physical impairments. I am now 11 weeks pregnant with my first child. I have fears about being able to take care of my baby without relying too much on others. This article reminded me that anything is possible. I do volunteer art therapy with other stroke survivors who are living with aphasia and I feel lucky that I did not have to overcome this particular hurtle. I am also lucky to have trained as an art therapist before my stroke as art really helped establish through this difficult time. I had a tracheotomy after my stroke and was not able to speak but I had art to express myself
    Art is an amazing way to communicate without words!

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    1. That is so excited! But I am sure you are feeling nervous as well. Honestly, asking for help has been my saving grace… Which I am horrible at doing, but if you are like me and still have a lot of post-stroke fatigue, some help is essential. I had to find my supports that I can rely on, like my husband, family and best friends. That being said, asking for help and having awesome support is essential in parenting in general even if your didn’t have a stroke.
      You will do amazing. It sounds like your a natural caregiver and a wonderful person.
      Keep me posted! I want to hear how you are doing😊

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  16. You are an amazing woman Kristen as I sit reading this with tears in my eyes I realize how much of a strong amazing inspiring woman you truly are all I can say is Kristen Travers you’re an amazing woman thanks for sharing your words

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