Inspiring Stories

Inspiring Stories: Wes Morrison’s Ritual

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.


6 responses to “Inspiring Stories: Wes Morrison’s Ritual

  1. Awesome YOU! This is why we should treasure our ELDERS!! You only become an Elder once. In doing so we must tell our stories and live a life to tell. I myself have survived hate being gay. Fights, hateful words, almost set on fire, and more. But here I am at 71. I have survived! Yes, I saw many pass from HIV and AIDS, depression, drugs, suicide and other health issues. Seen many history making events. I have been a volunteer since my youth & will always be volunteering. Love heals!

  2. Such a great topic and Wes doesn’t realize that he also means a lot to everyone’s life that he touches including me as he shared the Senior Planet Pride Discussion Group with me and it’s been so cathartic to be around others who are also LGGBTQIAPK and aging. We are not alone is what I have realized in the ever changing world and time is so important especially now. Everyone needs to share that with others today and in the moment because you may not be able to do it tomorrow. Thanks Wes.

  3. Thank you so much for this article. After my husband died I became very angry, then extremely depressed. I cut people out of my life and said things I have wished I could take back. Now I know how I will do that. People may not forgive me or want to be back in my life but I will know that I told them how much they have meant to me before I am gone.Thank you.

  4. Great article on Wes. As a member of the Pride Discussion Group I’ve experienced Wes’ intellect and dedication to keeping people informed. It is very common for him to cite web sites for us in the msg portion of the room. as we are talking. You can just see the notion to post a link as an item is mentioned. Seconds later the web cite is before us. His knowledge and assistance is appreciated by all of us. And Pam, you are an inspiration as our moderator too. Thank you.

  5. I love this man :)
    “I can cut you to ribbons verbally and still do it with grace.” Sounds like my alter ego Rita. But seriously, I absolutely love Wes’s purpose driven action. May he continue to be blessed.

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