This is My Biggest Regret in Life, and Why
It would have only taken a moment
“Mom’s calling you,” my brother said looming over me.
“She is not,” I said.
I had just talked to my mom as I came in the back door with hamburgers for my siblings.
“Is your father okay?” mom called from their bedroom.
“Yeah, he was just crabby,” I yelled back.
Working with mom was way easier than working with my dad.
Mom wasn’t feeling well, so dad had to work the grill. That meant a double shift. That’s what you do when you own a Snack Shop.
After our short exchange, I plopped on the couch. I would sleep there, uniform and all. And as far as church the next day? I had decided to forego it. After all it was all in greek anyway, and who would miss me?
Settling in to sleep, large hands awakened me.
“Where’s your mother?”
“She’s in the bedroom,” I snapped. Could he not see I was asleep?
“She’s not there,” he said a moment later.”
“Then she’s in the bathroom!”
Was he kidding? Our bungalow wasn’t that large. Finally, I drifted off to sleep again.
Hours later, I awoke to a conversation I would never forget.
Gus, my eighteen-year-old brother, said,
“Dad, you’ve got to do something. Something’s wrong with her!”
“She’ll be okay,” he answered.
“Dad, I’m not kidding, something’s wrong!”
“Get me the phone book,” my dad demanded.
“…but Dr. Pugh, you have to come… her regular doctor is on vacation…”
“I’m sorry, Stanley.”
Dad got off the phone and called an ambulance.
Our real nightmare
Soon the ambulance came and attendants strapped our 43-year-old mother onto a gurney. As they wheeled her out, her large brown eyes widened like never before. But she wasn’t the only one who was terrified.
Dad and I followed the ambulance to the hospital. We were soon joined by a couple other relatives. But this would not be a drawn out hospital stay. Not at all.
The next day my dad told me to leave so I could type up menus for the daily specials. Sometimes I hated that restaurant.
When I returned to the hospital, I found things pretty much the same.
The doctor came and told us, “Her blood pressure has come down.”
Everyone felt relieved, everyone but me. I watched the doctor’s eyes and they told a different story.
Waiting with quiet patience,
praying for some response.
Why don’t you wake up?
Blurs of white uniforms
unaware and detached,
an insensitive sun
They wheel in a machine
to breathe for you.
have people running,
words meant to reassure
The machine wheeled out.
“I’m so sorry.”
Why didn’t you just wake up?
“Would you like to see her?”
Instead of her usual pink color, my mother’s face matched her sheets.
My stomach hurt like never before.
We left the room for a moment. In walked my sister, Peggy and Gus. But they were too late. They still rushed into her room and I followed them. Where else would I go?
A nurse coming on duty asked the other nurse, “Who was that woman?”
“It was their mother,” she whispered.
She gasped and I froze.
Was? And then it hit me hard.
A nurse gently took my hand and led my sister and me out to a stairwell, “Go ahead honey, let it out.”
And we obliged. My insides hurt like never before.
Two days later, we stood at her copper colored coffin. My mother used to say, “Don’t bring me flowers when I’m gone.”
Unappreciated flowers sat everywhere.
And finally we were to walk by her casket for the last time. I could hardly put one foot in front of the other. A sixteen-year-old girl still needs a mother. Didn’t God know that?
As I got closer, something overcame me. I threw myself on her. I could feel her body cold, but I didn’t care. My tears fell freely.
My uncle jumped up and gently lifted me off, but who would help me move on?
I thought I would never feel worse than I did that day. But even then, I was wrong.
One month later, while having lunch my brother said,
“Dad, remember the night mom was sick? Did you know she called Anne, and Anne didn’t go?”
I felt like a knife had gone through my broken heart.
My father’s eyes narrowed and he pointed his finger at me and said,
“It’s YOUR fault your mother’s dead.”
And I believed him for years.
It took therapy and many loving people to finally convince me it was not my fault she died.
I lived with that regret for so long, but not everyone knew why.
My mother was not demonstrative. I don’t remember ever hearing her say, “I love you.”
I regret not taking a couple minutes to get up and see what she had wanted.
Maybe, just maybe she was going to tell me she loved me.
I chose not to go because I didn’t believe Gus. Gus sometimes lied.
Sometimes we have second chances to make things right. And in those cases, the regrets are avoided.
This one was different. And yet, I was eventually able to do something I never thought I could. Forgive myself.
We make decisions based on the information we have at the time.
As far as never hearing, “I love you.” I’ve have come to realize just because some people don’t say the words, doesn’t mean they don’t feel love. (Read that story here.)
Every person has regrets.
But we can get to the place where we lay them down. Where we work through them and even where we can forgive ourselves.
I’m living proof.