Last weekend I walked into a café in my neighborhood that I frequent so much they know my name. One of the workers there saw me and said, in front of a few others, “Don’t look so happy. Did somebody die?”

Oh my. It stopped me cold. In fact, someone had died. I felt tears welling, but so wanted to spare this woman’s feelings, so I said this:

“OK, I have to tell you this. Yes, someone did die. Someone I love very much. And my choice was to either burst into tears or just be honest with you.”

She was stricken and apologized profusely, so I quickly said, “It’s OK. I know you didn’t know. Actually, it’s kind of nice to know I’m usually so perky that you noticed the change today.”

Three days later, as I journaled with a cup of coffee in the café, this woman came up to me and asked how I’m doing. We had a short but warm conversation. I was so touched by that.

It struck me that I would never have handled this situation with compassion when I was younger. Even a few years ago it might have been iffy. But the very person who passed away this week helped soften my edges and was like a mirror showing me my capacity for love. He brought out my best self.

So often when we hear about the lessons that come from death, we hear people admonish others to make sure they don’t go to bed mad or simply remember that each encounter could be your last. While that is sound advice, I do think if we look at our relationships more as a whole it might be more important to make sure we say what we feel on a regular basis.

What that does is make us adept at communicating, whether it’s tenderness, concern, anger, frustration or any of the endless emotions that come with living and loving. Knowing we can express, not to get something in return, but just to come from an authentic place within ourselves – that’s the real deal. That’s the blessing that feels like a thousand blessings when we wake up one day and they are gone.

Over a year ago a musically-inclined friend introduced me to a song by Jewel that I immediately loved and put on my iPod. Written by her and Liz Rose, it’s called “Satisfied” and it speaks to this point so perfectly and poetically.

“If you love somebody/You better let it out/Don’t hold it back/While you’re trying to figure it out/Don’t be timid/Don’t be afraid to hurt/Run toward the flame/Run toward the fire/Hold on for all your worth/Cause the only real pain a heart can ever know/Is the sorrow of regret/When you don’t let your feelings show.”

The chorus that follows comes rushing at you in the most thoughtful and provocative way because Jewel sings it like it’s a plaintive cry and yet a searing challenge.

“So did you say it? Did you mean it? Did you lay it on the line? Did you make it count? Did you look ‘em in the eye? Did they feel it? Did you say it in time? Did you say it out loud?”

I’ve listened to this song so many times over the last year and enjoyed it so, but never did it give me such joy as this week when I realized that the answer to every single one of those questions with regard to my loved one was yes. Not just yes, but many yeses. Resounding yeses. Sure, last words also went through my head, but really what you wonder is if you left anything unsaid.

It is worth examining our relationships with significant others, friends, and family on a regular basis and checking in with ourselves on what would haunt us if they were suddenly gone. Who are you proud of? Happy for? Whose support do you appreciate? Who are you avoiding because you can’t talk about that one thing? Who do you think is beautiful? Extraordinary? Gifted? Unbearable? Foolish?

Tell them. Do it from a place of truth grounded in love.

“’Cause if you did hun/Then you lived some/That feeling inside/That’s called satisfied,” says Jewel.

It will ripple into every encounter of your life.

Nancy Colasurdo is a practicing life coach and freelance writer. Her Web site is www.nancola.com and you can follow her on Twitter @nancola. Please direct all questions/comments to FOXGamePlan@gmail.com.