One of my biggest regrets when it comes to the loss of my son is something I didn’t do-something I didn’t say. And, it was that something that haunted me for a very long time after Luke’s death. The morning of the accident I got up early to take my daughter,Lexi to Easton for her senior pictures. It was going to be such a hot and humid day and the photographer had moved up the time so Lexi wouldn’t be dripping with sweat in every photo. I rushed around getting ready to go. I can remember specifically getting to the living room doorway and pausing to see Luke lying on the couch asleep (his favorite place to sleep during the summer months). In a hurry, I glanced in, but didn’t go over to him as I thought to myself, I don’t want to wake him. So, I turned around and left the house-never in my worst nightmare would I have thought that would be the last time I’d see his sweet face on this Earth. It still hurts to think how I was just in too much of a hurry to kiss him and tell him (even if he were asleep) I LOVE YOU. I know in my heart that he knows I love him, but that one single experience has taught me a lot about what’s important in life and to always remember whoever you come in contact with or interact with on a daily basis-it could be the last time. So make it count! Now, I certainly don’t go around thinking to myself every day this could be the last time I see this person so I should say or do this or that, but it reminds me to be in the moment and enjoy the time I am given with the beautiful souls I have the privilege of sharing this Earthly time with.
This experience leads me into this weeks group topic of “unfinished business.” It is by far one of the most difficult, heavy topics we discuss in group. It may be one of the hardest discussions we have, but a truly necessary one. We talk about the fact that when you carry around regrets and guilt from “unfinished business” it can be like carrying an extremely heavy backpack. The “weight” might later create issues in your life. Most times, students will talk about the fact that they should have spent more time with their loved ones, some will say could have let them know how they felt about them and others would have been a better friend, child or grandchild. The “shoulda”, “coulda”, “wouldas” can affect a person’s ability to properly grieve the death of their special person. Sometimes, the “coulda, woulda, shoulda” activity that we take part in brings up thoughts such as, was there something he or she could have done to prevent the death of their loved one or could I have treated the person nicer or I should have said I love you. While the activity can be complicated, we also try to “let go” of these thoughts through a symbolic “throwing away” exercise hopefully taking that burden off of them. I think everyone carries around a certain amount of guilt and regret in life-the idea is to not allow it to overshadow the wonderful, beautiful experiences and love they shared with their special people.
As with most people, I feel that whether the person was 5, 15 or 95 years old when they died, we will never feel as if we’ve had enough time or experiences with them. We would always wish for just one more day, one more “I love you,” one more hug or kiss. We certainly can get weighted down with all of the things we might have done or said, but that load can be burdensome and heavy. It does nothing to shine the light our loved ones lives have illuminated for us. What we can do is reveal the love and beauty their lives meant to us by showing love, joy and respect to each other every day. Rather than looking back and saying, “if only”- instead we can look forward and to appreciate every smile, every “I love you”, every moment.