I Live With the Regret of Not Saying Goodbye
Two years ago I took the 4 hour drive back home to go out to dinner with some girlfriends. It had been too long and the heart of our gathering was the opportunity to take a dear friend out for dinner. She was nearing the end of her very long and hard battle with cancer. As I said goodbye that night I knew it would likely be the last time I would see her. What do you say in that moment? I didn’t know, so a long hug replaced words. As I watched her get helped to the car I felt the urge to go back to her. To say something, to do something. I didn’t. She was exhausted and not feeling well and I didn’t want to hold her up. Tears fell freely from my eyes as I watched them drive away. She passed away the next week and I still rethink that moment in which I didn’t say what I wanted to say.
I came back to town for her funeral and that night I went out to eat with my grandparents. We went to Ella’s Deli – a family favorite and the place that they would often take me and my sister and brother to when we were kids. After dinner I drove them home and said good-bye, but I didn’t get out of the car. The day had been emotionally exhausting and my 6 month pregnant body was worn down and my feet were swollen. I felt the urge to get out of the car and to hug them both. I didn’t. They were already nearing the front door and I could tell that the dinner left my grandpa tired. Going out in loud, public places with Alzheimer’s isn’t always an easy task. I regretted not giving those hugs as I drove away. He passed away the next week and my regret of skipping that goodbye still lingers.
We never know when the last time will come. The heart of life is change and unexpected twists. We always are shocked when the unthinkable happens, yet the nature of life itself is the unexpected. The moments of consistency and repetition are actually outside of the norm. These two memories still live strong in my mind but I’m ashamed to admit that I still skimp at times on this lesson. I don’t always listen to my gut and I don’t always say the things that should be said.
Emotions aren’t always easy for me. We could dive into the psychology behind it but a blog isn’t meant to be a 300 page novel. Words flow freely through my mind but getting them to leave my mouth is the issue. That’s why writing is my outlet. I don’t have to speak in order to say what needs to be said. Unfortunately writing can’t help you in all situations. A typical goodbye isn’t written but yet, given the right circumstances, may be written forever on your heart and in your mind.
I was reminded of these two regrets this morning. It was a busy one, we woke up late because our little monster actually slept in, so we were left rushing. Throw a road closure and keys locked in the car into the mix and you have yourself a morning of running around. Saying goodbye to Bryan was a quick half kiss as I yelled over my shoulder – ‘see you at lunch!’
An hour later I got his call. The brakes in his car that were replaced last week went out. He had just dropped the kids off at daycare and praise God there was no one at the stoplight when he went through it. A scary incident that lifts the blindness of expectations and reminds you that ‘life’ is in fact at every corner. This was a situation that turned out fine but that could have turned into so much more. As I hung up the phone I realized that if the worst had happened this morning, our moment of quickness would have joined the ranks of my regretted goodbyes.
This morning was a reminder that an extra hug, a kind word, an ‘I love you’, actually takes no time at all. Love will never be wasted or regretted. It was a reminder that in the tasks and rushing of living that we have to focus on the art of life. We have to remain focused on those we love and cherish above all else.