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Inspiring Stories: Wes Morrison’s Ritual

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When COVID-19 hit, Wes Morrison, age 78, saw how many people were suffering because they never got to tell a loved one how much they meant before they passed. So, Wes started sharing publicly a ritual for connection and closure that he previously held privately. He calls this practice, “If you don’t know how much you mean to me.” 

After working 32 years as a news production assistant in DC, Wes turned his attention to advocating on behalf of his fellow seniors. He is passionate about the rights of older adults and the LGBTQ community, volunteering with AARP’s Senior Medicare Patrol, Legal Counsel for the Elderly, Iona Senior Services and Age-Friendly DC. He is so devoted to his volunteer work that in 2017 he received the Andrus Award for Community Service from AARP. 

Wes is a member of the Pride Discussion Group at Senior Planet in addition to moderating two other virtual support groups for LGBTQ older adults.  

Tell me about your practice that you call: “If you didn’t know how much you mean to me”? 

I first wrote about it for Iona Senior Services due to COVID-19. During the pandemic I heard so many times, “I wish I had said goodbye” or “I wish I had a chance to tell them I love them,” and it’s heart-breaking.  

I remembered what I had done for my mother in the last weeks of her life, back in 1995. I had known how close she was to several friends, so I called them up and said, “Mother can’t talk, but she can hear your voice. If you want to say goodbye, I am holding a phone to her ear.” 

My practice is also inspired by the fact that I am a member of the LGBTQ community and between 1990 and 2000, I lost all my close friends to the AIDS epidemic. So many of us lost the friends we would have grown old with. For me, it was nearly 100 people, some close acquaintances and others that were just friends, that I lost to AIDS. 

Life is short. Let the people you love know that, right now! 

So many people never got to tell their families and friends that they loved them one last time. Others wish they hadn’t argued with their loved one the last time they spoke. I have decided that I am not going to let that happen to the very close friends I have left. 

Life is short. Let the people you love know that, right now! 

How do these conversations typically go? 

First, I mention the number of years we’ve known each other. 

Then, I talk about some historic event we’ve both seen in those years, such as the first Gay Pride celebration, the legalization of gay marriage, the two Kennedy assassinations, or Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination. 

Next, I talk about some of the good and bad times we’ve shared together: our cross-country trip by air, great dinner parties, the hotel with the heart-shaped pool, and dressing for dinner. 

Finally, I offer my personal support, encourage my friend to pursue a specific goal, or just let them know that they’ve always been there for me. 

I end the call by saying, “I do not want you to respond to this, just know it.” Then I change the subject or say we will talk another time. 

How do you start a potentially difficult conversation like this? 

If you’re talking to the person, and it helps if you’re using your voice not an email, basically just start out with, “I have something to tell you and I want you to listen. You don’t need to respond, but I want to tell you how much you mean to me.” And just go from there. 

What does Aging with Attitude mean to you? 

I understand the concept of it, but for me, my motto is aging gracefully. Now, gracefully does not mean meek and tender because I can cut you to ribbons verbally and still do it with grace. 

 

Pam Hugi is Senior Planet’s Community and Advocacy Manager. Based in Brooklyn, she is a contributing writer for this site.

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