WACHS: Don’t overlook these words as you move through life


The various occupations I’ve had my entire adult life have all involved the use of words, written or spoken. But of course, that’s pretty much true of all of us in one way or another.

Unless you spend your days shoveling out cow stables by yourself, most everything we all do — from work to play — involves some sort of communication. And even if you’re a Stable Shoveler First Class you’re likely to have to speak with someone sooner or later, even if it’s just to say, “I need a new shovel.”

Even the part-time teenager jobs I had centuries ago involved words and communication — “Would you like me to take these groceries to your car, Ma’m?” (there was a day when “bag boys” actually bagged groceries in paper bags and then took them to folks’ cars) or “What flavor milkshake do you want?” (This was when pharmacies had soda fountains and didn’t sell antifreeze).

After reaching the tender age of mid-20’s and cramming a four-year college program into seven years, I took a job with an area daily newspaper, confident that I soon would win a Pulitzer Prize soon and write the Great American Novel. And this was after several years of part-time student and part-time reporter for this newspaper.

A few years and two children later, I slid into corporate communications, editing a monthly magazine and monthly newspaper and doing various public relations things like speaking and eating. Sometime after all that I found myself enrolled in a seminary where I got to read lots of words from other writers and then share some of them with a group of professors.

Since then I’ve found myself serving as pastor at various churches, sometimes combining that with more newspaper work but through it all, making a living and doing stuff using words.

I say all that to now state what I think is the obvious: words are powerful things and we ought to be careful which ones we use and how we use them. There are all kinds of things we can say about words — “Keep them soft and sweet because you never know when you’ll have to eat them,” for instance. And sometimes a few words are better than too many — there are but 66 in the Lord’s Prayer while the U.S. Internal Revenue Code is made up of hundreds of pages.

But of all the words there are and how they’re combined, perhaps the most powerful and meaningful but which many people, especially men, are reluctant to use are those three little ones: I love you.

With apologies to another columnist, I offer a letter that some time ago came to her about that very thing. I think it’s especially touching this near to Memorial Day and all that means. See what you think…

“Dear Abby,

I enlisted shortly after Pearl Harbor. 36 days later I was on my way to the Philippines. En route the Philippines fell to the Japanese and we were rerouted to Australia. Eleven days after we landed I met the most beautiful girl in the world.

On our first date I told her I was going to marry her. And I did, 18 months later, while on an R&R from New Guinea.

After more than 57 years of marriage and two children, my beloved “Mary” died five days before Christmas. Although we agreed that our ashes were to be scattered over the mountains, I found I could not part with hers.

While Mary was alive, she would frequently say, “You don’t know how much I love you.” I’d reply, “Likewise.” Now her ashes are on my dresser, where I tell her several times a day how much I love her but it’s too late. Although I wrote poetry to her, I could not bring myself to say the three words she wanted most to hear.

As my dearest was dying and we thought she was comatose, I told her, “There aren’t enough words to tell you how much I love you.” A few hours later, she whispered, “Not enough words” and died.

The reason I’m writing, Abby, is to urge men to express their feelings while their loved ones are still alive. I don’t know why but many men are reluctant to express the depth of their feelings.


Missing Mary in Colorado”

Sound familiar in any way? Don’t let this happen to you… especially us guys.

Bob Wachs is a native of Chatham County and emeritus editor at Chatham News & Record. He serves as pastor of Bear Creek Baptist Church.