I’m going to be vulnerable here and tell you that this week, I allowed myself to process regrets I had regarding my mom. Such a painful exercise but one that I wanted to do because they deserve space to be acknowledged, processed and then put in their place.
Over the last year, I had been sensing an urge to spend more time with my parents. I’ve learned to listen to this small voice which is the Holy Spirit whispering to my heart. And the whispers were loud on this one.
I live about 45 minutes from my parents’ house and I manage a couple of properties nearby. So on my work days I often try to spend a night at their house or stop by to say hi. One of my regrets is that I often worked late and my mom would text and tell me she had waited up as long as she could and was headed to bed. I would text back that we would catch up in the morning, and we did get to have that sweet time together the next day. I would sit on the couch next to her chair and we’d talk about everything. My regret was that I didn’t finish work earlier to take advantage of those bonus evenings with her.
Our family gathered early for Christmas this year due to my schedule with the boys. I ended up having to work up to, during, and right after our gathering (Christmas is a busy time for vacation rentals). I left for a few days between Christmas and New Year’s and came back for a weekend in January before my brother and his family left to go back to North Carolina. My mom had the flu during that time so we didn’t see her—my parents have a guest house connected to theirs and she was quarantined on her side. We kept in touch via text and calls but I regret that I didn’t put on a mask and go over to check on her.
I regret not having more pictures together. I regret not sitting next to her at Christmas dinner and as we opened gifts. I regret not asking her more questions and not pursuing more moments with her.
My emotional/visual exercise is me reaching deep inside and pulling all of these things out so I can set them on a table and study them. But not just to look at them…the important thing is to give them to God and allow Him to speak His truth to me. So I did that this week. And this is how I processed.
First, starting at the very end of my mom’s journey, I was able to spend a majority of the 12 days she had left on this earth with her. Because I had worked so much over Christmas and because it was January (one of my quieter work months), I had the flexibility to be at the hospital as much as I could. My assistant and my team kicked into full “we got your back” mode and I was so blessed with the gift of time—precious final days with my sweet mama. I was fully committed and able to throw my time and energy into loving her in a very practical way. She would often look at me and say, “Thank you for taking such good care of me.” I would tear up and tell her it was my honor. It really was. To be able to serve the woman who had been an incredible mother and amazing friend to me throughout my life was a gift.
God, thank you for the opportunity to pull away and focus my attention on my mom in the final days of her life.
Second, I reflected on that urge I had to spend more time with my parents and although I don’t think I executed it perfectly, I realized that the desire was there and it did prompt me to be very present when I was with them. I was reminded of the many days I got to stop in and wake up to visit with them, specifically my mom. I was grateful that God would drop that desire in my heart and give me opportunities with work to be nearby and stay at their house. Although not perfect and certainly realizing I would have done things differently had I know her days were so numbered, every visit was a present. Every memory of those visits will continue to be a gift in my life as I move forward with reflection and gratitude.
God, thank you that I live so close to my parents and thank you for speaking to my heart to spend as much time as I could with them last year.
Third, I reflected on missed connections with her. I wished I would have sat next to her at more meals and sought her out more during family activities. I remember one night during our Christmas days together in December, she wanted to play Mexican Train (her favorite game that then became our favorite game because it was a fun time spent with her). We couldn’t quite pull the group together and she ended up going to bed. The next day I promised her we would be there that evening and we did all gather for what would be our last time playing with her. My dad happened to stop by the game table to check on us and I asked him to take our photo. It’s the last group pic we have with my mom. It was also our last night together as a group and we got to spend it with her.
God, thank you for allowing us one last fun gathering with my mom. Thank you for the laughter, the joy and the opportunity to have a really special time with her as a family.
Instead of focusing on the sadness of what could have been, I am embracing what WAS. My mom is dancing and rejoicing in heaven, she isn’t counting the disappointments of not getting more time with us. She was a gift in our lives and we were a gift in hers. The truth is that we loved her fiercely and she loved us back in the same measure. Her gift to us is incredible memories, stories, conversations and moments of just “being” with her. That’s what we will cling to moving forward. That’s what I will choose to fill the void left in my heart.
I challenge you this week to do the same. Identify the gifts within your regrets. I get a visual of a fire that has burned a house to the ground and as the owners sift through the ashes, little treasures are discovered, kept and cherished as precious memories. Remember, we don’t keep the ashes, we keep the gems.
If you know someone who could benefit from this post, please share. God carved out a path of intense healing for me and I would like to share it with as many people who need or want to hear.