In early March I got Season one of FlashPoint from the local library. One episode was about a guy who used to be on the team the show revolvs around. At the end one of them says something about family and how there should be no secrets with family. Something about that episode and the others I watched around it struck a chord in me. And I wrote a short letter to my Dad. I told him that I wanted him to fight. I told him I wanted him to be here. I told him that I did not want him to stay if it meant he was miserable. But, I tried my best to make it clear that I wanted him to fight back, that I believed we could beat the odds of this. I tried to make myself believe it was possible. I told him over and over, in writing, how much we love him and that he's not allowed to leave me for a very long time.
the world will forever be off it's proper axisif you leave me too soon
When I wrote it I intended to rewrite it into a pretty card that they could keep in the living room. I even wrote in the note that I was doing a card instead of driving over there at 11pm in my pajamas so that he could look at the card and remind himself why he's fighting.
I never wrote it into a card.
I never gave it to him.
In my heart of hearts, in my spirit, in my intellectual mind, I sincerely do not believe that this letter would have done anything at all to make him stay. When it was all done, I realized how far gone the cancer was before he ever went to the doctor in the first place. His death certificate says Stage 4. But even knowing that .... I still wish I had at least torn this sheet out of this stupid effing notebook and given it to him. Or gone over there and done like I said in the note and taken his face in my hands and looked him directly in the eyes and told him how very very much we all love him.
But, I thought we had time.
- I don't regret losing a job in a toxic environment that almost gave me an ulcer 4+ months before he died.
- I don't regret taking the job I have now less than a month before he died.
- I don't regret spending almost the entire last Friday before I started work at the house with him watching stupid, ridiculous corny lifetime movies.
- I don't regret staying at the house the night before we called hospice
- I don't regret missing work that Wednesday we called hospice.
- I don't regret sitting next to him, holding his hand as his family prayed the rosary.
- I don't regret being there to watch him slip away silently.
- I don't regret texting most of my friends to let them know he was gone.
- I don't regret sitting there holding his hand off and on the rest of that day until the funeral director came to get him.
- I don't regret telling his sister to get on the first plane she could get, to not wait two more days to come out.
- I don't regret writing his obituary.
- I don't regret missing a week of work for the funeral etc.
- I don't regret insisting, superficial as it still seems, that I needed black pants with pockets for the visitation.
- I don't regret starting a eulogy because I turned it into a letter we put up for everyone to read at the visitation.
- I don't regret anything I said aloud to anyone.
I could play what if. We all do it at various points in life over various situations. (I was recently seeing a guy for just barely over a month and then poof he's gone too, believe me, I've been playing a lot of what if over that). But for the most part, I refuse to allow myself to play what if. What if I had said this. What if I had done that. What if I had told that person this thing or this person that thing.
What if I had given that letter to my dad?
Not only is it unproductive, it can be very damaging. I did the best I knew to do at the time with the knowledge I had. If I had known that we had mere hours left, would I have done things differently?
But even those things are for other people. But even that is unproductive. I can't change any of it. I can't fix anything for anyone else that I wish I had done differently for them. At the end of my life I will only answer for my own choices. And I was there. I got to say what I wanted him to hear. I got the peace afterwards that he had heard all of us. I can remind myself of that peace and comfort myself with the assurance that he is looking down on me from heaven.
Even if that doesn't dry my tears.
So often I see people with their families and I want to shake them. I want to take their hand or grab their face in my palms and beg them, beg them to tell their parents they appreciate them. To say the words. To make sure they know, beyond any possible shadow, that everything they could ever wish to say has been said. But I'm already a little crazy to begin with, I think that might push me over into Avoid-That-Crazy-Lady status (kidding).
I thought of doing that very thing a few weeks ago when I was spending an evening with a family I'm good friends with through my church. I wanted to take both the daughters and just say "Please. Please go in there right now and tell him how much you love him. Tell him what a wonderful Dad he is and has been. Tell him how much you appreciate him. Please, please tell him. Now." But just thinking about doing that nearly brought me to tears. And I don't think I can become 'that' person who cries in front of people. I cried in front of people at the funeral and stuff, but other than that, I've cried in front of my mom and two friends, as far as I can remember right now.
So, instead of actually walking up to you and taking your cheeks in my hands and looking you in the eye, I am doing it virtually.
To each and every one of you.
I had 7 weeks and I never got around to giving him the letter I wrote. You may not get 7 minutes. Take the minutes you can, right now. Email them if you have to. Text them. Call them if the ringing phone won't give them a heart attack. Even if they weren't the Worlds Greatest Parent. If you turned out well and you can attribute any of that to your parents, then go Thank them. please. Don't put it off and end up with regrets that will weigh you down for years.
My regrets are light. They are few. I think it would be impossible to not have some regret about something, no matter how small, when you're looking 20/20 hindsight at the situation. But I sleep at peace. I cry in grief only. I breathe deep and keep walking. I hope you will be able to do the same when the time comes for you to walk this road.
Good Will Hunting (video has lots of language, skip to 2:20 to hear just this bit & none of the language)
No, I'm not kiddin' you, Will.
That's why I'm not talkin' right now about some girl I saw at a bar twenty years ago
and how I always regretted not going over and talking to her.
I don't regret the 18 years I was married to Nancy.
I don't regret the six years I had to give up counseling when she got sick.
And I don't regret the last years when she got really sick.
And I sure as hell don't regret missin' the damn game.