Tuesday, March 2, 2010


Regret is a powerful emotion. It's the implication that you should have....would have.....could have.....but didn't.  Whether it's involving regarding career choice, or perhaps it was what city to call home, or maybe it was on whether or not to marry and/or have children, each decision carries weight, and with it the power of possible regret. Sadly, often our clarify in a situation is only in looking back. Hindsight, they say, is 20/20. Personally, I have plenty of regrets. Relationships I wish I had fought harder for, while others I wish I had cast aside much earlier. Even regrets involving my college education and career choice.

When speaking to other women dealing with the grief over losing their mom, regret is a pervasive theme. Perhaps their mom's death was unexpected. A car accident, a house fire, even suicide. How differently our conversations would go if we knew the last time we spoke would truly be the last. Ever.

Fortunately, whenever the topic of regret following the death of a loved one comes up, I have peace of mind. For better or for worse, my mom's illness spanned 17 months. Personally, I made sure that I said everything to her that I wanted to share -- even including some difficult conversations. In line with my personal beliefs, I also feel that God prepared my heart along the way. I felt very strongly that when I said goodbye to her that  Sunday afternoon it would be the last time I would spend time with her on this earth. My final words were "I love you, Mom" to which she replied "I love you, too".  I paused a moment and said "No, Mom. I mean it. I really, really love you.".  In a half smile and squeeze of my hand, she replied  "I love you, too, honey".

She died 7 hours later.

Despite not grappling with the angst of regret in the early process of my grief, I found it hit me in a way and in a place I least expected. About a month before his grandma died , my 7 year old son Adam had approached me about wanting to donate money to an animal charity. He said he felt that he needed to help others. I explained that this would make Grandma especially happy because she loved her animal work and it would make her happy for us to do this in her honor. We picked one of her favorite organizations to donate to. I also agreed to match Adam's contributions dollar for dollar. At that point, life distracted me and we put his plan on hold.

Adam would occasionally remind me of his desire to empty out his piggy bank to donate to charity, but I always had a reason to say "later". Its dinner, its bedtime, I'm tired; you name it. In reality, I was simply was too lazy to follow through. Perhaps burdened with the start of school and being emotionally drained from the symptoms of decline, the excuses were plentiful. None were justified.

Following her death, in lieu of flowers, we had asked her friends to make a monetary donation to one of her favorite animal charity. It was then when I realized that I had never made good on my promise to Adam.  I had also not mentioned his intent to my mom, which would have brought her such joy.  It would have made her so proud of her grandson, whom she was not going to see grow up.

Together we opened his piggy jar and counted out his coins. We made a posthumous donation of $13.72 apiece to the bird sanctuary that my mom loved. It would be the same wild bird sanctuary we would take our injured baby Cardinal to a year later.

Maybe it sounds silly in the wake of bigger regrets to have, I suppose. But somehow I feel that I failed my son and my mom in that moment. Sometimes it's about picking up the pieces, dusting off the feelings of regret, and making the wrong situation right again.


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