My cousin Charles died last Sunday. Charles was in his 80’s and had health issues so this was not a total surprise. He was in the hospital in December and came home on December 31st with hospice care. On the morning he died my cousin Janet came to take away his breakfast tray and Charles told her he loved her. When she returned a few minutes later he had passed. What a lovely and gentle way to exit this world and enter into the Kingdom.

At the funeral I learned a lot of things about Charles. You see even though I met him over 50 years ago when he and my cousin Janet got married and though we have seen each other many many times over the years, I never really knew Janet and Charles. They’re deaf. And I never learned sign language. It got a little better over the years as some of my second cousins learned to sign and could translate for us. I speak more French, Spanish, and Italian than I can sign. I can even passably ask for coffee with hot milk in German. The only sign language I know is I love you, thank you, and a curse word. I won’t say which one.

I’ve been thinking about Charles all week and every time he comes to mind I think of these three expressions and I feel ashamed for not trying harder to learn sign language. But a few days ago a new thought presented itself to me. If I could only learn 3 expressions in any language I’d be hard pressed to find three more useful phrases.

What if every conversation started with “I love you”? That would be amazing! I love you. I Love You! I LOVE YOU! Right away the conversation would affirm that each person is lovable and beloved. So many conversations would be more pleasant. It’s hard to be ugly and ill-mannered when someone says, “I love you” to you. It’s hard to mistake the meaning of I love you.

And what if every conversation ended with the words “thank you”? Thank you for talking with me. Thank you for hearing me. Thank you for spending this time with me.

And who among us has not found it useful from time to time to employ a curse word? Sometimes only an expletive can express a thought or feeling adequately. And for those who abhor the use of swear words I will quote one of my favorite philosophers, George Carlin, who said, “Shoot is just s**t with 2 O’s!”

So maybe I didn’t know that Charles loved to fish or that he was a diehard Bengals fan. I think at the least Charles and I expressed the most important things to each other.

I love you

Thank you

No curse word necessary 😉

Buen Camino Charles

Published by michelleperram

I am me, a person with love for others, a passion to be creative, and a desire to be a cheerleader for others. I’m a wife, a mommy, and a grandma (you can call me by my grandma name “Lady M”). I’m on a search to grow and connect more fully with God. I didn’t grow up particularly church, married a man who had, and we raised our three daughters in the church. I found a place to belong in the church and somehow discerned a call to go to seminary. I received a Masters of Arts and Religious Communication (MARC). I went on to become ordained as a deacon in the United Methodist Church and served in media ministry and Christian education. As clergy I found that I didn’t have a place to belong in the church so I left the United Methodist Church in 2010. I still believe and I’m still on a quest to draw closer to God. And I’m going to walk the Camino de Santiago.


  1. What a beautiful essay! I think I will try to intentionally say at least two of the three phrases every day. The third one, I am sad to say, tends to come out automatically at least once a day, no brain power involved, no intention necessary.

    Very sorry to hear about your cousin.

    Thank you for your thoughtful and thought provoking writing! I love you.

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