“Dad just kept saying, over and over to her, “Forgive me! Forgive me! It was awful,” my sister said.
It wasn’t the first time he had asked our mother for forgiveness, but it would be his last and his words fell to the ground, unheard. All those years of regret must have flooded over him and through him with no remedy. I suppose his ever-increasing dementia will be his only mercy. In some ways, I envy him.
Regret. We all have it, some of us more than others, and regret does not die with the one we harmed or were harmed by. It lingers, and leaves us broken in a way that feels excruciating. There will be no making things right, or talking things out. There will be no chance of asking for or receiving of forgiveness–no reconciliation. What was done, or not done remains that way, for good.
When my mother died, I had only spoken to her once in about 8 years. The reasons for that remain a bit of a mystery to me really. I do have some ideas, but I’m unsure of the true reasons because she would not talk with me about it, only to say, in a facebook message, that I had “moved away” from what I had always believed, to “just go live your new life” and “Can’t we just agree to disagree?” That was about it. When I pushed back and said that if we couldn’t talk then she would be out of my life, because the pain of being rejected and ignored was too much for me, said she had “wounds that had healed and she didn’t want to open them up again.” I begged her to have a conversation with me, so that we could possibly have relationship again, but she would not.
There were things I wanted to know. Had I caused those wounds? What were we agreeing to disagree about? There were things I wanted her to know too, like why I no longer believed, what the price for that was and how scared I was, but she refused to discuss those things with me and the cost was our relationship. So, for about eight years, there would be the occasional private message from her on facebook, telling me she loved me or happy birthday. When I needed my mother more than anything in the world, she was not there. My brother said she had been praying for me—there’s absolutely no comfort in that.
Herein lies the devastation for me: I will never have the opportunity to have that conversation with her now. She has no regrets, she’s dead, but I’m here and the regret I feel is overwhelming at times. I regret I didn’t just go to Arizona and make her talk with me or swallow my wounded pride and pick up the phone. I regret the words I wrote back to her in anger, anger born of hurt, but anger none-the-less. I regret that when I did talk to her, after almost 8 years, right before she got sick, that I didn’t say more. I regret that we talked about nothing, but surface stuff, as if we were strangers. I regret I didn’t tell her that I had missed her every day.
What does one do with regret like that? Well, we need to find a way to move on from it at some point–if we want to remain mentally healthy anyway, but as with most emotional pain, there are lesson to be learned. I’ve been thinking a lot about it and I feel, very strongly, that I need to make sure that I don’t leave words unsaid—forgiveness unasked for and forgiveness not given. I need to know that when I close my eyes for the last time, my regrets will be few, and the people around me that I love will feel the same. I need to do this while there is still time.
I have my work cut out for me.