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Be Good

Be Good mug, hand lettered art, periwinkle, Emily Kurth artist



In my family, we always say “be good” when parting ways.  I don’t know why... maybe it originated with ornery kids who needed to be reminded to behave themselves.  Maybe it’s because I come from a not so touchy-feely Irish family who feels weird saying “I love you”. Who knows, but it’s just what we do.  

Every time my brother heads back to Chicago after Thanksgiving… "be good”.  

When my kids head out the door for school in the morning… "be good”.  

It’s just what we say.  In all honesty, I never paid much attention to it until my grandfather, who we lovingly called Pap, said it to me one last time.

It was a football Saturday.  I was a newlywed with no kids.  Tailgating was my main plan for the day.  

My Pap was in the hospital and was scheduled for surgery.  If I headed to the hospital early in the morning, I could be back in time for tailgating and the game, or I could just wait until the next day to see him and maybe not be so rushed.  

For whatever reason, I hopped in the car, drove an hour to Pittsburgh, and stopped into his room.  

We chatted about nothing in particular.  In fact, I recall the conversation being kind of awkward.  I wasn’t really sure what to say to one of the strongest men I knew.  Good luck? It’ll all be fine?  

I also recall not being particularly worried about his surgery.  I remember thinking it was pretty routine and I would call him after the game to see how he was feeling.  

The nurse came in and told me that it was time for him to head to the operating room so I would need to say goodbye.  I leaned down, kissed him on the head, and told him I’d call him later.  

He said, “be good”.  And those were the last words he ever said to me.  

Be good.

My brother called me later that day to tell me that Pap didn’t make it through the surgery.  He was gone.  

I was shocked and so sad, but so grateful I had made the decision to head up early that day to see him.  I was so thankful I had talked to him that day...that I kissed him on the forehead...that he told me to be good because that was his way of saying I love you.  

I will forever cherish those two little words.

When I send my kids out the door and say “be good”, I actually really mean be good, like don’t do anything stupid, but I also mean I love you.  I mean, be good to others, be good to your friends, be good to strangers, be good to yourself, but also I love you.  

So, here’s my little public service announcement….always tell your loved ones that you love them, whether it’s the words, “I love you” or “be good” or whatever it is that your family says.   

If I had decided to wait until the next day to see my Pap, I would have regretted that decision for the rest of my life.  I know you know this, but we just never know when it will be the last time we see someone. 

Stop reading this for a sec and send someone that text.  Give them a call.  There's this really popular thing called zoom right that.  Whatever your mode of communication is, tell them.

Oh yeah and be good 😘


Emily Kurth, artist, abstract art, Morgantown, West Virginia 

1 comment

  • A great reminder for every day life, not just during tough times or special occasions. I also have some last moment memories with my grandparents, that at the time wasn’t anything exciting, but are know cherished memories.

    Brenda H

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