My 2 Biggest Regrets of 2011
Some folks might think this is a bit premature, what with there being three more weeks in this year, but barring any major upheavals in that time span, I feel safe in writing about my two biggest regrets of 2011. Each year I'm getting better and better at life. I feel that I'm growing exponentially as I get older and for that I am very grateful. Learning about me, who I am, what makes me tick, and what I want from my life keeps me grounded and it also helps me to live my best life as I wend my way toward old age.
Yet I am only human and I always look back on things with a sense of nostalgia. Sometimes I feel remorse for deeds undone and selfish decisions that bring about the remorse of which I'm speaking. This year has been no different.
On September 17th, my Aunt Martha died. She was eighty years old and she suffered from COPD. She couldn't stop smoking because she didn't believe she could. She enjoyed it and she did it until the last day before she made her final trip to the hospital. Aunt Martha wound up on a ventilator and she couldn't be weaned from it. Her body was beyond its capabilities in this arena. On the day her immediate family made the difficult decision to take her off life support, they agreed to wait on doing so in case anyone wanted to come and see her. My mother told me of this and I chose not to go.
Why did I make this decision? Well, Aunt Martha had always been one of the most important people in my life. She was in my corner no matter what and when my writing career began taking off she was so very supportive of it. She followed everything I did and when I traveled she wanted to know all about it. I was very fortunate to have her to share my life with. I did not go to the hospital to see her on her last day because I didn't think I could go there knowing that it would be for the last time that I would see her. I let a very selfish motivation keep me from going to her side before she died.
I wanted to be there. I really did. Aunt Martha was my buddy. We talked at least twice a month, and often more than that, and she was always interested in what I was doing and how I was getting along. She gave me a safe place to go and I will miss having that. Yet she also imparted her own sense of independence and what it means to live life on one's own terms to me. I will always remember her as a woman who did exactly as she chose to do. She was one of the most emancipated people I've ever known. She gave me a wonderful example of how to live my life according to my own needs while also taking care of those I love. For this I will be forever grateful.
No, I didn't go to see her before the ventilator was disconnected and she took her last breath. I couldn't bear to watch her leave this life. I stayed at home and comforted myself with warm memories of the wonderful times we spent together. And yet I'm bothered by the fact that I didn't have the strength to go to her when I knew I'd never see again if I didn't. I regret not being with her one last time, to thank her for being such a strong influence on me and for teaching me all that she did. I feel I should have swallowed my emotions and been there for that.
I'll never know what I would have felt if I'd gone on that Friday night when I knew her time was running out. And this is something I'll have to live with from now on.
Thirteen days later my Uncle Lamar died as well. He succumbed to liver cancer and heart failure. He was my mother and Martha's brother and he was only sixty-eight years old. I went to see him in the hospital before he died. I'm not sure he knew I was there but I went anyway. I needed to see him before he passed. Why?
In the year 2000, my uncle hurt me deeply by being unkind to me during a phone call one Friday night. (Why do things always happen to me on Friday nights?) Lamar drank too much and anyone who knew him can attest to this. He was drinking during that phone call on the night I'm referring to here, and I should have given him some consideration for that. Yet I have a hard time pardoning people for their behavior due to addiction because they choose to be addicted to whatever it is they are dependent upon. I let this sentiment get in the way of forgiving him for being so unkind to me that night. And I never did forgive him for it.
In the decade that followed I avoided my uncle. I only saw him when I had to and I didn't visit or call. He did call me in 2005 and we had a nice chat. He asked me to come and see him, and I told him I would, but I never did. I let the hurt feelings that I'd been harboring since that night in 2000 keep me from seeing him or speaking to him very much again.
When I knew he was dying, I went with my mom to see him almost every day during the last week he lived. I wanted to do something to make him more comfortable, but I still couldn't bring myself to let go of the hurt he caused me during that one telephone conversation over ten years ago. He died and I didn't get past this until after he was gone. I never had the chance to be his friend again.
These are my two biggesr regrets of the year we are now closing out. I have a much harder time forgiving myself for my shortcomings than I do in sharing the same with others. I know that neither Martha or Lamar would have known I was there. I know that Martha knew how I felt about her and I know that we will always have our bond no matter where we both happen to be in the universe. I also know that Lamar was my friend, whether I thought so or not, and I think he would have been there for me in spite of anything that ever came between us. I think this is why I was so determined to be there every day while he was dying. I just couldn't bring myself to let the past go until he was a part of it. I'll never know how it would have affected me if I'd been closer to him. And for that I'll always be sorrowful.
I can't change the past but I can learn from it. The lessons we get from the events in our lives are with us from now on. Letting regrets become learning experiences is the most we can gain from having them. I think I'm strong enough now to let this knowledge make me a stronger person for the future. I don't have the insight to know what might come my way but I do think I'll handle any similar circumstances differently from now on.
Regrets stay with you until you figure out what to do with them. There's no way to avoid having them but we can all prepare ourselves for their arrival by using the wisdom that life gives us in a positive manner.
My biggest regrets of 2011 are told. Now I can move past them and apply their presence toward becoming a better person for having had them.