The recent passing of one of the finest professors and greatest minds psychology has had the privilege of learning from has struck a chord in me beyond the sadness of his death. I first met Dr. Eugene Taylor in January 2011, my first semester at Saybrook University. I had recently had a less than desirable experience at another university, and entering Saybrook, I was a bit wary. One of my first dinners there my friend and I decided to sit at Dr. Taylor’s table. Dr. Taylor was wearing his leather motorcycle vest, enjoying his dinner and with genuine interest, asked about us. We spent the next hour talking with Dr. Taylor, and I walked away knowing I had just encountered one of the finest minds on Earth. When I enrolled in courses, I quickly jumped at the opportunity to learn from him.
This last August, I saw Dr. Taylor in passing and was struck by his appearance. I wondered if he was well but felt it would be inappropriate to ask so. Like many others, I stuck my head in the sand. I let slide the opportunity to let him know how much I valued him and appreciated his contribution to psychology and my life. When I learned of his passing, I shed many tears, and many were born of regret.
My grandmother told me when I was a young woman that she never understood why people sent flowers to funerals because the dead could not appreciate them. She said, “Send me flowers while I’m alive,” and so I did. As often as I could, I took her flowers or had the local flower shop deliver them to her. When my grandmother passed away in late 2007, I imagined that she was a bit amused and dismayed to see the bouquets of flowers at her memorial services. My grandmother also gave me my first lessons in Existentialism, although she didn’t know it. She often spoke of what she wanted to happen when she died, and while many of her friends and family refused to talk with her about it, I learned to swallow my tears and listen to what she had to say. It was the first time in my young life that I faced life and its inevitable truths. Because my Grandmother allowed me to walk with her on her journey, as she accepted her own mortality, I too, accepted that she would not live forever. When I accepted that, I began to cherish the time I had with her as often as I could. I was at her side when she died, along with many of her children, and as I watched her gracefully release her hold on this life, I cherished that I had no regrets.
With Valentine’s Day still fresh and because it is considered a day to express love, I would like to issue an invitation to each of you: today and thereafter as often as possible, make a conscious choice to express your love, appreciation and gratitude for those around you. Call that professor who made all the difference in your life and let them know how they touched you. Send an email to the author of the book that helped you through a tough time. Send flowers to your mom if you have the chance. Dance with your spouse. Chase your children through the yard and be sure they know how precious they are to you.
After all, dead people can’t enjoy flowers.
— Lisa Vallejos