In the writing workshop I just completed on Martha’s Vineyard, Nancy Aronie gave us the following prompt: “The time I felt one way but acted another way.” As I began writing I found myself face to face with the deepest regret of my life.
I had flown home to be with my dying mother only to miss being there with her at the end. I had rushed to Vienna as soon as I was told she was hospitalized, followed her wish to bring her home, against doctors orders. I had arranged her room just the way she told me to, hired 24 hour staff, organized hospice, and more. Finally I invited Eric, our oldest, to join us. He came and brought Alex her great grandson along. Gratefully they were there holding Oma the moment she died.
Believing my mother had months left to live, I had decided to use my non refundable ticket to return to Ohio and arrange my life so as to be able to return to stay as long as needed.
Instead my mother had only weeks left, and died on the day I was scheduled to return. In that morning’s video phone call I told her that I would be back within 12 hours but reassured her to move on, if so called, and please not feel obliged to wait for me. Hours later she transited.
In retrospect, I knew deep in my soul that I would never see her alive again. I knew she wanted to die, understood that she was dying, but still acted like her time had not come.
Perhaps in some confused way I felt I could delay her departure by not being there? Magical thinking did not work!
I might have done better had I listened to her more deeply? Before I left she had spent whole nights calling for her mother, who she did not even like, and calling out for Mary, the mother of Jesus, who she did like. I am hopeful they both showed up and accompanied her, through the narrow gate. Dora Julia Braun turned and leapt out the window into the open meadows of the Vienna woods.
Elaine Sexton in her poem “Rethinking Regrets” writes:
Let’s thank our mistakes
Let’s bless them…
Thank them for making us so right
In our imperfections.