Warning: Regrets Can Suck the Life Out of You

They never fade away

Mom’s calling you,” my 18-year old brother said.

“No she’s not,” I answered. What did he know? I had just spoken to my mom two minutes ago.

Gus and I often played that game. But I was disgusted after working with my grouchy father that night. He was covering my mother’s shift because she wasn’t feeling well.

All I cared about was getting out of there and hitting the couch when I got home. The couch I was now on.
 
My defining moment
 
I was not in the mood to play this game with my brother. So I chose to ignore him. 
 
Before I knew it, I slipped into sleep.

Moments later, large hands shook me. “Annie, wake up. Where’s your mother?” My father demanded.

“She’s in her room,” I said, hoping he’d just go away. So what that I was still wearing my waitress uniform. So what that I was asleep on the couch. No sooner had I drifted asleep, when once again, I was awoken.

“She’s not there,” he said.

Now I was ticked. We lived in a small bungalow. It’s not like she could have been in many places.

“Then she’s in the bathroom!” I snapped. And with that, he was gone as quickly as he had come.

Finally asleep

This time till morning.
 
Some people wake up to the smell of coffee, or bacon sizzling in a pan.

I woke up to this conversation:

“Dad, you have to do something,” Gus pleaded.

“She’ll be okay,” my dad responded.

But Gus did not back down. “I’m serious Dad, something is wrong with her.”

Something was wrong

I’d later find out that mom had fallen out of bed during the night. Dad put her back in bed only to have it happen again. And then she lost control of her bladder.

Finally he found her in a dry tub, fully clothed, with her glasses on top of her forehead, and her arms crossed over her chest.

Could this be why he kept coming to me?

“Get me the phone book,” Dad ordered. He never requested anything. He would just belt out orders, expecting immediate results. First he called the family Doctor.

“I’m sorry Stan, but I haven’t seen Mary in a long time. I suggest you contact her doctor.”

“But Dr. Pugh, he’s on vacation and I…”

“Sorry, Stanley…” and with that, he hung up.

My father then called an ambulance and we watched as they arrived and strapped her to a gurney rolling her out the back door.

She was awake

Her brown eyes opened as she rolled out. My stomach hurt like never before.

And just a few days later we stood at her bronze colored coffin and saw someone who didn’t even resemble her. They handed five kids flowers to place on her coffin. I held my flower remembering what she had said years ago. “Don’t bring me flowers when I’m gone.”

The funeral home was full of unappreciated flowers.

My world came crashing down

I thought I would never feel as bad as I did that day.

I was wrong.

One month later, dad and I were eating lunch and Gus joined us. But he wasn’t there for the food.

“Dad, remember the day mom was sick? Did you know she called Anne, and Anne didn’t go?”

Everything stood still. Was he kidding?

The accusation

My stomach tied in knots. The room was quiet. Dad narrowed his eyes. Pointing his finger at me he said, “It’s YOUR fault your mother is dead.”

Sixteen year olds don’t think clearly. And sixteen year olds who just lost their moms are even worse. My world changed forever.

You would not believe how many times I’ve replayed that scene of 1968. Or how many times I just wished I would have gotten up and checked if she had called me. Not knowing has tormented me far more than any words spoken.

I’ve lived my life with as few regrets as possible, I wish I didn’t have that one.

I’m much older, and I’d like to think wiser than I was that fateful night. But even so, I have come to a few realizations:
 
 What I’ve learned
 
- We make the decisions we make based on the information we have at the time.
- Everyone makes mistakes.
- I was not responsible for my mother’s death.

Life is hard. Although we can’t change a lot of what happens to us in life, what we can control is how we respond to those circumstances. Click to Tweet

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t miss my mom. And I have spent countless hours wondering what it is she would have said to me, if she did call me.

So this is what I’ve done about it.
 
Steps I’ve made

1) I had to forgive my dad for blaming me for my mom’s death. You can read about that here.

2) I’ve had to forgive my brother for both his accusation and for telling dad. With God’s help I did that. Gus and mom were very close. I know that’s why he lashed out at me. He was hurting so badly. And because of my forgiving him, I was able to be there for him when he was dying of cancer.

3) I’ve become a more grateful person. There is a sense of gratitude I have because of losing my loved ones.

Leeches

When I was a little girl, I was afraid to go into my grandpa’s bathroom. Up on top of his medicine cabinet was a jar of leeches. Those black worms would just swim around in that jar till Grandpa had need of them. After he shaved, he would put a couple leeches on his face. No, I never watched. Not once.

Regrets are like leeches. If we don’t work through them, they can suck the life right out of us. Click to Tweet

Call to Action

Do you have regrets in your life?
Can you think of someone right now?
What would it take for you to let them go?
I’d love to hear from you.

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