How Loss Made Me Appreciate My Mom and Dad More

POPSUGAR Photography | Caitlin Hacker
POPSUGAR Photography | Caitlin Hacker

Dear Mom and Dad,

When I was young, I didn't always realize just how much you did for me. It always seemed commonplace to get my shoelaces tied, food cut up into smaller pieces, and clothes laid out for me the night before school. Looking back, I had a tendency to only hold onto those good moments. I bottled them up in a jar to be contained forever, in reach for when I needed them. And as I've gotten older, I miss seeing those tired looks on your faces every day, the faces that hid stress and secrets to instead offer an encouraging smile. I didn't necessarily realize that one day down the road, I will be the one to look after you.

See, you both know that my boyfriend's father passed away when he was 17 and he is now in the heartbreaking process of saying goodbye to his mother. At just 29, both of his parents will be gone. While that is a lot more time than some people get, it still doesn't seem fair to me. Most 20-something adults don't have to deal with the intense and fleeting thoughts of losing a parent. However, as I've watched his new reality unfold in front of me, the thought of the future stings a bit more than it did before.

I admit that I can often be arrogant in the sense that I think our lives have no boundaries. I hold onto those I love with such force that I don't realize it can slip quickly through my fingers. And I don't always stop to wrap up a moment in my mind, but instead pass over it, much like I do with unwanted songs on the radio. I've been told about many amazing moments in my life by you two, painted with such detail that I feel as though I can step right back in time. It's only after watching my boyfriend remind his mother of his name that my arrogance began to subside.

I know that in time, instead of pick-me-up text messages, the advice will not always come so quickly. And instead of calling you every night to recap the ups and downs of my days away from home, the phone may sometimes go unanswered. But it is in these moments of uncertainty that I promise to always look back to my childhood. I will remember to always say "I love you," because you showered me with those words as much as you could. I will remember to never scold you when I lose my patience, because we escaped my teenage years with your understanding. And I will remember to let hugs linger and sit with you while watching TV, because you tried (and sometimes failed) to do that so many times while I was growing up.

When I started getting older and making decisions on my own, the realization of how much you both sacrificed hit me like a wave I didn't see coming. The late-night help with homework, constant presence at every basketball game, and endless picture taking at school dances makes me want to pay you back for every favor, something my childhood piggy bank definitely couldn't do. It makes me want to take care of you for every day that I can. It makes me realize that with each hug I give you as an adult, I will still be forever in your debt for the number of embraces I received as a child.

Some people may think it will be a burden to hand over time from their lives to take care of their parents when they can no longer do it themselves. I, however, think it's a blessing. Watching my boyfriend help his mom down the hallway is the perfect reflection of the deep and intense love parents have for their children. When you provided strength during challenging times, you instilled in me the perfect qualities needed to stand beside you as things change. I love you both so much. You have worked so hard to make my life wonderful, and I promise to do the exact same thing for you in the years to come.