Tuesday, January 29, 2008


I have had several conversations over the past few weeks with people who have lost parents - and all of them had one regret or another. I myself have my own regrets, things I couldn't even think about for years after my mother's death, because I was so ashamed and angry with myself. I felt I had let my mother down. I guess it never occurred to me how widespread this is. We sometimes think this only happens in instances where someone dies suddenly and without warning. But really, it seems to happen to everyone.

What's more - I realized that there is no way to help a person in the throes of regret in these instances. Somehow, some way, they just have to forgive themselves. Sometimes that takes days, or months or even years. Sometimes people never forgive themselves. They wander through life carrying around this unfinished business in their hearts, all the while it's tainting everything they do and everyone they come in contact with. Think about it - do you feel a desperate need every day to say I love you to someone you love just in case, God forbid, they are taken from you suddenly? Have you ever fought with your spouse, or your child, or your parent and then prayed that you got to say you were sorry before they were taken from you? I know I do. After losing my Mom, I will never, ever take any moment for granted because I never, ever want to feel that sickening feeling of regret when I lose someone I love again.

But for all the trying and desperate I love you's and I'm sorry's before the "deadline", I don't know that there is ever a way to avoid feeling regret. Our relationships are so complicated, so entrenched, so emotionally overloaded, that I don't think it is possible to ever say and do everything you would ever need to before you lose someone. And really, no matter how prematurely, or late in life, someone you love is taken away, it is always too soon. And that alone is reason for regret..

Step 1 - stop kidding yourself into believing that there was more you could have said, or more you could have done to make things better or worse than they were. You don't have that much control in this world.

So here's what I think. It's not what we say, or how many times we say it, or what we do or how many times we do it. I am reminded of a song called "Little Wonders" by Rob Thomas. One of the lines in the song says "...in the end, we will only just remember how it feels." And I think this is important for all of us to remember...that at the end of our lives we are only left with the love in our hearts. When our mothers died, they carried with them the unconditional love and joy that they felt the day they became our parents. Nothing that you did or didn't do could ever take that joy from them.

It's not easy, but in time let's all try to forgive ourselves and let ourselves off the hook. I somehow think that if we had the chance to say I'm sorry right this moment, our mothers would say "It's ok."

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